Financial Fitness for Newlyweds
by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA
Let’s see, you’ve got the wedding chapel and the caterer booked, the dress selected, the cake designed, the wedding invitations mailed, vows written, finances talked about – oops, didn’t do the last one yet?
Money conflicts are a leading cause of marital strife and divorce. A frank discussion of finances before you say “I do” will go a long way in helping you stay “I do forever.” And harmony and understanding probably won’t happen by themselves. So couples should set aside some time to discuss their philosophies and goals about money — how much you want, how you want to use it, and how to make it part of your happy marriage.
While many of you would love to have the problem of too much money, most newlyweds will feel like there’s never enough money. That’s why it’s so important to understand your partner’s approach to money and to manage it well.
Which of you likes to spend money and which likes to save it? Often in a couple, one person has a more liberal approach to money and the other has a more conservative approach. It is important to understand that neither of you is “right.” Instead, you will need to come to a spending agreement that works for you both. You might agree on some spending strategies that include maintaining a joint household checking account for household bills, but keep separate accounts for spending as you wish. This will surely involve some compromises as well as give and take.
WHO DOES WHAT?
Set up a weekly family meeting. My husband and I sit down for 30 minutes every Saturday morning (early before Sebastian and Samantha wake up) and discuss the upcoming events of the week as well as other concerns. Be sure to also talk about finances, marital roles, and existing obligations to friends and family members. Who is going to be paying the bills? Who is going to monitor the investments? These are just a few of the questions you need to agree upon. What you decide about rights and duties in your marriage is not important; whether or not you agree is. Make sure you talk about your life goals together to make sure you both are on the same financial page. Do you want to have kids, travel, purchase a home, or retire rich at age 40? You will have a much higher likelihood of achieving your dreams if you are both working together to achieve the prosperous life you deserve.
Contrary to common opinion, talking over one’s financial circumstances, and perhaps financial differences, usually doesn’t doom the wedding. Talking about your future finances will actually deepen, not divide, your relationship.
Stacy Francis is president and CEO of Francis Financial, Inc., a fee-only wealth management practice dedicated to investment advisory services for women, couples and those experiencing divorce. She is also the founder of Savvy Ladies®, a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers women to take control of their finances.