3. Your own financial identity is worth protecting
Why: If you had a healthy credit history before you married, hang on to it. It's useful for joint purchases -- and if life throws a curveball and you need credit on your own.
What to do: Always keep at least one credit card in your name. This account helps you maintain your own credit history and financial autonomy. Both are smart to have -- and that's still true if your husband has a stellar financial record.
If your spouse has paid bills late in the past or maxed out credit cards, definitely don't add your name to those accounts or cosign with him on any new accounts. Doing so will ding your credit rating. "If you're planning to buy a big-ticket item like a car or home in both your names, though, take time to spiff up his accounts so you'll get the best possible interest rate," Bodnar says. Work together on paying down any old debt in his name and make sure current payments are always on time.
He shouldn't close all of his old credit cards once they're paid up, though. On-time payments and available credit are good for his credit score. (All this advice applies to you, too, if you're the one who has a spotty financial past.)
4. Life and disability insurance are musts for both parents
Why: Anytime people are dependent on your income to pay for their living expenses -- that would be your darling kids -- you need insurance. Life insurance is intended to help pay for family living expenses until your children are 18 or on their own. Disability is another important, but often overlooked, form of insurance that provides money in case a working parent is ill or injured and unable to work.
What to do: Both you and your spouse need life insurance -- no question about it. If you're staying at home, your life insurance wouldn't replace an income but it's just as important: If something happened to you, it could pay for necessary help like childcare or a housekeeper. There's no magic formula for how much you'll need, either; talk to a financial planner or insurance agent about what it would take to cover your important expenses.
Look for level-term life insurance, which is relatively inexpensive. Avoid whole-life or cash-value insurance; it's not worth the extra money, since they invest your cash and there are better ways to do that. Search for term policies at sites like insure.com or accuquote.com. For disability insurance, check with your employer if you work outside the home. Companies often offer it at a reduced rate.
Note: You don't need life insurance on your kids! No one's relying on them for income, and kiddie policies aren't a good way to invest for college (as they're sometimes marketed). Steer clear.