Marriage, no matter your current stage in life, is a huge and exciting life change.
In the midst of all the excitement, it can become financially stressful. I hope to provide you with some tips and tricks to take on this challenge with confidence so that you can enjoy this amazing time in your life.
Tony Gaskins, a high-profile author and life coach, once said, “Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life.” I often ask my friends and family what they think is the key to a successful marriage. Almost always, the answer is communication!
According to current research, the average wedding costs approximately $30,000. An expense at that level runs the risk of putting a significant dent in your savings and, in some cases, can send you into debt. This new debt on top of student loans, mortgage payments and other bills can make for a rocky start to your new marriage.
As soon as you and your partner are engaged, start saving for the big day. Many financial recommendations land on trying to set aside 20% of your income each paycheck toward your wedding/honeymoon fund. It is also best to set aside this money as a team. If both of you are contributing a little at a time, you will reach your goals quickly and effectively.
If you have different dreams of what your big day will look like, make sure to come to a compromise from day one so that your financial plan is clear. If neither of you is set on a huge wedding, consider eloping. It is a fun, intimate, less expensive option for couples who are not interested in a large wedding. If an extravagant destination wedding has always been your dream, go for it. Simply start saving as early as you can or even consider lengthening your engagement to give you more time to save.
Other budgeting options abound. In today’s technologically advanced world, guests welcome —and sometimes even prefer — electronic invitations. Many websites offer free electronic invitations. Plus you get to help the environment at the same time.
Also, think about cutting your guest list or finding a less expensive caterer. Make sure to check your venue’s seasonal rates. Most of the time, depending on where you are located, your venue will have lower rates for getting married during the off-season or even for getting married on a Sunday versus a Saturday. Look into do-it-yourself decoration options that can be fun and more meaningful. The options are endless, but just start early and communicate clearly with your partner.
After the big day, it is time to communicate some more! Sit down with your spouse and record each of your financial goals. If your goals line up, begin thinking about whether you want to combine financial accounts. A benefit of having joint accounts, specifically called joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, is that the money will go directly to the other spouse in the instance of unexpected death. By taking this important step, you will prevent the money from going through the long and often difficult probate process. It also provides for more honest conversations regarding account balances, etc.
If you are more independent in your financial goals, no problem. Again, make sure you have beneficiaries set up on all your accounts in case of an unexpected death. You also can add a transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary to any nonretirement brokerage accounts.
If you keep your finances separate, agree on a percentage that each of you will pay toward monthly household expenses. Sometimes the answer is 50-50, but if only one of you is working full time, that allocation could look a little different. Even if your finances are separate, you are still a team.
Establish a budget with your partner. Always make sure you are both setting aside cash for an emergency fund in case of an unexpected home repair, car repair or health care emergency. Creating that cash buffer is important in preventing debt. The recommended emergency fund is to have at least three to six months of basic living expenses saved up and easily accessible.
Another topic to discuss with your spouse is investing and preparing for the future. If you both want kids, consider setting up 529 plans for their future education or a different type of education savings tool.
Do you plan on moving in the next few years? If so, take steps to build your credit and investigate programs that can help you secure lower payments and interest rates such as first-time homebuyer loans or veterans loans.
If you have available funds, set up an investment brokerage account together. The earlier you start investing, the longer your investments have time to grow.
You may also want to discuss things like life insurance. In the horrible case that you were to pass away unexpectedly, will your spouse be provided for? Use online tools or an attorney to set up updated wills. This may sound morbid, especially if you are young, but it is always best to have a plan regarding financial matters.
In conclusion, don’t let the possible financial stresses of a new marriage take away from the joy you and your partner should experience. Simply communicate. Be clear, honest and smart about your financial goals and write them down. Your financial strength as a team will quickly increase, leading to a less stressful beginning to a wonderful life.