Let me tell you the real story of the woman who married Prince Charming.

During their forty years together, he enjoyed a lucrative and secure career. She never asked about their assets or how much they spent or saved. They had kids and lived well.

You can see where this is headed.

The prince died. A huge chunk of his money went to pay various taxes, most of which could have been avoided if he had only managed some basic financial planning. The kids got nothing. The wife had to sell the house. The fairy tale ended.

This isn’t an old wives’ tale, either. Women need to have money in their own name.

While younger working women are moving, inch by inch, toward a tripod model—his money, our money, my money—thousands of women are still leaving their checkbooks at the altar, even when they bring home big salaries.

One nationwide survey found that when couples argue about money, men see it as an issue of “trust.” By contrast, women cite issues of “power and control.” Presumably, lots of women would rather not press that marital hot button. Yet when they do assert their financial independence, women are often surprised by the positive changes in their sense of self and the marriage’s dynamics.

If everything you own and all family bank accounts are jointly held (or worse, in his name alone), consider these commonplace scenarios. Then think about getting your own accounts.

• You ought to be able to buy a gift without it being obvious how much you spent.

• You may need access to cash fast for many reasons, including the tragic ones, when joint accounts can be frozen for a good, long while. Typically, you should have three months’ worth of household and living expenses in an emergency bank account of your own.

• When loans and credit cards are all in your spouse’s name, credit agencies will likely score his record while yours turns inactive. Even if you established a good credit history in your own name before marriage, that rating can lapse in less than a year. That means you’ll have difficulty getting credit in your name because there’s no current track record. In addition, if he has a habit of late payments or defaults entirely, it’s your credit rating that will also suffer.

• It can take several years for bad credit info to disappear from the records.

• Sometimes you just want to make your own decisions. You should be able to spend money on what you want without asking for permission or forgiveness.

• And one more critical byte of advice: Make sure you always know current computer passwords for joint investment and bank accounts.

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