Planning a wedding (whether your own or your child’s) requires discussion of more than just china patterns and honeymoon destinations. No matter how difficult, no matter how unromantic, couples need to talk about money.
Many couples avoid talking about finances because it can be a heated and controversial topic. But ignoring the subject because it’s difficult won’t make it go away. Talking about financial issues early in a relationship can help a couple better understand and know one another, more effectively plan for the future and more successfully prevent stress and friction down the road.
1.) Start Talking
As couples talk about the future, they should discuss their goals and dreams—and then look at how finances are tied to meeting those goals. Feelings about finances can be deeply ingrained—and not easy to change. As with other traits, opposites often attract, so it’s not uncommon for the partners in a couple to have conflicting attitudes about money. Changing a partner’s ideas about money may be difficult or impossible, but open discussion makes understanding and compromise an attainable goal.
2.) Pre-Wedding Financial To-Do List
Address critical money matters before heading to the altar.
3.) Review income, credit and debt. Comparing credit reports may not seem romantic. But how romantic would it be to return from the honeymoon to discover a mountain of unknown debt? Engaged couples should have a serious talk about money long before the ceremony. They should go over in detail what each earns—and owes—and then create a plan for paying off pre-marital debt. They should also discuss credit scores and any past credit issues.
4.) Discuss long-term goals. Couples should talk about their joint financial goals. Do plans include buying a home, having children, saving for college, retiring early? Prioritize goals and estimate what it will take to reach them. When a couple includes one spender and one saver, it’s important to talk about the compromises that will allow both to be happy.
5.) Make a day-to-day plan. In addition to the long-term planning, there are day-to-day financial issues that a new couple will need to address. Who will be responsible for paying the bills? Will money be kept in joint or separate banking accounts? If there will be separate accounts, how will joint bills be paid?
6.) Set a budget. A new joint venture requires a new joint budget. Each partner should make a commitment to spend less than they earn and to set aside money for paying down debt and saving. Decide ahead of time who will be responsible for tracking spending, but make sure both parties know how, why, and where the budget is kept.
7.) Plan an investment strategy. Investments are the key to reaching long-term financial goals. Just as many couples have different attitudes about spending and savings, many also vary in their investment ideas and risk tolerance. An objective second opinion from a financial advisor can help balance individual styles to create a plan that suits both partners.
8.) Test Case #1: The Wedding
One of the first opportunities to put a couple’s financial communication and planning skills to work is the upcoming nuptials. With the average wedding costing nearly $30K (not including the ring and honeymoon!), couples should consider whether using some of that money to get a head start on financial goals (such as paying off debt or saving for a house down payment) might be a better move than throwing a lavish event. No matter who is picking up the bill for the wedding, making smart budgetary decisions for the special day can help couples start down the right financial road.
9.) Keep Talking
Once the wedding is over and the budget, savings plan and bill-paying system are in place, couples should continue to talk about money. New couples should sit down at least once a month to look at how well they’re sticking to the budget and to review if savings are on track to meet goals.
Opening lines of communication and committing to a financial plan before the wedding may very well help a couple cope with money matters throughout the marriage. With every life change, a financial advisor can help you keep you on track for a financially secure ever-after.