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(MCT)—First there’s love, then there’s marriage, then there’s … Wait! Not so fast. We’re in the 21st century now. Relationships today have taken a whole new twist that many may not realize could also twist personal finances.

One of the biggest twists is more couples are waiting to get married and instead just choosing to live together. U.S. Census reports say as many as 1 in 5 households are led by a couple who are not legally married. And in Canada, the government said last month it will no longer track marriage and divorce statistics because more people that are living together unmarried may skew the statistics.

But by staying single, yet in a long-term relationship, running a household’s finances is more challenging. Couples often have to manage separate bank accounts. Joining accounts can get messy if the relationship ends. It is important for all single couples to have a clear written plan on how household finances are managed and what assets are kept separate. Just because a couple live together, the finances shouldn’t.

In fact, one reason some couples choose not to marry is because one of them has financial difficulties or is not financially secure. Once the couple marries, those problems can be both their problems. Therefore, it often makes sense to stay unmarried until everyone is financially prepared to begin a legal relationship.

Before moving in together, each couple should do an inventory of their finances, such as what they own and what they owe, and share it with each other. There’s no easier way to stop a relationship in its tracks than to discover a partner has a big problem that needs professional help to fix.

It may even be wise for each partner to sit down with a financial planner who specializes in working with unmarried couples to go through the details and explain concerns and how to overcome obstacles, both potential legal issues and emotional issues. Look for financial planners who hold a new designation called Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor, which has trained them in helping unmarried partners.

Dan Serra is a financial planner with Strategic Financial Planning Inc. in Plano, Texas.