As younger generations wait longer and longer to get married than their parents and grandparents, individuals are accumulating more wealth, assets and, in many cases, debt before marriage than in the past. Every millennial getting married should protect themselves in case the union ends up being a less-than-harmonious one, says Erin Lowry, author of "Broke Millennial Takes on Investing."
Though it's not exactly romantic, everyone getting married should sign a prenuptial agreement, which stipulates how a couple's assets will be distributed in a divorce, Lowry tells CNBC Make It.
"While marriage is about love and about trust, it is also the merger of assets. It is a contractual agreement, and at no other point in your life would you be asked to sign a contract on blind faith alone," says Lowry, who got married at 29. "You would make sure that there were terms and conditions laid out that were favorable to both parties."
It's important to recognize that marriage is not just a commitment to love and care for your partner, but to take on their debts and financial obligations, and make every money decision together going forward, she says.
And while a prenup might seem like an awkward subject to broach, it's a necessary one, says Lowry. It can make the divorce process run smoothly and minimize the heightened emotional reactions that are likely to accompany the dissolution of a marriage. Plus, it ensures that the partners involved, and not the government, dictate the terms.
"Everyone actually has a prenup, it's just the law of their state," she says. "If you're not going to make a prenup for yourself, make sure that you very much understand the ins and outs of the laws in your state."
Some states like California, Texas and Washington, for example, are "community property" states, which means that all of the wealth and assets accrued during the marriage are split evenly between the two partners in the case of a divorce, unless there is a pre- or postnuptial agreement.
Most states are common law states, which means if one partner's name is on the deed for the house, for example, that partner alone keeps ownership of it. If both people in the marriage are on the deed, then any proceeds from a home sale are divided evenly.
Money is the number-one source of stress in relationships, according to a recent survey from Ramsey Solutions, a financial education company. A prenup can ease some of the tension.
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Lowry adds that she and her husband have a monthly meeting to assess their finances and update their net worth.
While they have joint accounts, she recommends each partner also have their own personal checking account for discretionary spending. That gives each partner some financial autonomy.
"You each get a lump sum that you can spend on whatever you want so the other person isn't nitpicking at you," she says. It reduces all sorts of arguments because while you might have the same overarching goals, your day-to-day interests and what you value spending money on could be different."
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