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No Prenup? Take These Steps

Turn up the lights, turn down the music and forget about romance.

It's time to face the business side of marriage.

Cold as that may sound, the Census Bureau recently released data that should make even the most blissfully married couples forget pheromones and focus on finances.

According to the Bureau, the length of first marriages has been getting steadily shorter since it started collecting such data in 1955. Of couples married back then, about 70% made it to their 25-year anniversary. Now, fewer than half of couples who were to celebrate their silver anniversary sometime after 2000 actually ended up doing so. The majority of marriages ended, due to divorce, separation or death.

"Even the most optimistic people have to ask themselves, 'What financial shape would I be in if my marriage ended?'" says Marilyn Capelli, a financial adviser in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

The most effective way for couples to button down their finances is through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. But many people are reluctant to even raise the possibility of drafting one because it seems so, well, out of sync with that bit about "till death do us part."

Short of one of those contracts, there are some moves that may help you land on solid financial ground, no matter what happens.

Protect Your Inheritance

If you receive a large gift or inheritance before or during your marriage, keep the assets in your own name. If you deposit them into an account you share with your spouse, they may be divvied up in a divorce. If they remain in your name, you keep them.

Don't Get Tangled in Debt

Spouses with different spending habits should hold credit cards in their own names. That way, any massive debt accumulated by one spouse won't end up being a shared responsibility in a divorce.
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