Congratulations! You’re engaged and about to go on what should be the greatest adventure of your life!
Of course, in your mind, you’re working through all the ways the two of you can successfully navigate any stormy waters that might brew. You make plans and prepare, discussing everything to ensure the marriage starts off on the right foot.
But one area where couples struggle is when it comes to finances. Maybe you’ll have the preliminary talks (What do you do? How much do you make?), but a survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling has revealed that 70% of people had ‘negative feelings’ about discussing money with their fiancé.
20% of those surveyed believed that a real, in-depth conversation would either end in a fight or the end of the engagement altogether. The consequences of this are devastating!
Lack of Communication Reveals Nasty Surprises
We’re all different in the way we approach money. These differences can lead to difficulty after the wedding. Our views often come from our parents and the way money has been spent around the house as a kid. If your parents helped you get a savings account at an early age, you’ll be more likely to save.
On the other hand, if you received a lot of gifts and weren’t taught to save, saving might not be in your vocabulary. This often leads to a rift between couples who were raised differently. They join in matrimony only to find out their spouse is a huge spender and has been hiding a massive pile of debt under their mattress.
Now that debt belongs to you. Isn’t marriage fun?
This is why money problems are the number one cause for divorce in the United States. Couples who don’t communicate later regret it and are often ambushed by a partner who doesn’t share their same views. And when incomes are combined and bank accounts are shared, those can be dangerous waters to tread.
Improving Your Odds
If you’re intent on having a successful marriage and NOT becoming another statistic, then you’re going to have to get over the fear of having the talk you need to have with your future spouse. It’s 100% CRUCIAL for a good marriage to get the financial stuff situation beforehand.
Here are some ideas to help ensure you’re financially prepared for marriage:
1) Don’t start off your marriage in debt.
Weddings are expensive. They are often one of the most expensive milestones in our lives, next to getting the house and the car. As much as we dream about having this extravagant wedding, full of beauty and wonder, it can set your marriage back in the long run. It doesn’t exactly set a good tone going forward starting out your lives together in debt.
The average wedding in the U.S. costs $25,000, and that’s without the honeymoon or any of the other expenses that come with marriage. How many years will it take you to pay off that one single day? Plan a budget and stick to it! Sticking to the budget is the difficult part, as the cost of a wedding can add up fast.
2) Have the difficult talk.
Be aware of your partner’s financial situation. Are they a spender? Are you a saver? It’s okay to have different ideologies towards money, but it requires a lot of open communication to make it right. Sit down with your partner and make sure you have a serious, but non-judgmental review of their spending habits. Go over their debts and a talk about ways to make it work.
If you’re a saver, try to be understanding that people make a lot of mistakes when they’re younger. Most people often don’t know how to save, especially when they’re single and don’t need to. Now that things are getting real and responsibilities are piling up, it’s time to get serious and work out a budget together.
3) Build up your savings.
Married couples often live to their max on both incomes. If you buy a house, you’re most likely going to do it together with the mortgage based on what you both make together. That’s perfectly fine, but what if one of you loses your job? This is where being financially prepared can save your marriage from a ton of heartache and frustration.
The vast number of divorces over money happen when times are difficult. The economy slows down, jobs are hard to come by, and the family loses out. That’s why it’s more important, especially in the beginning, to forgo some comforts to put that money into a savings account. Build up at least six months’ worth of emergency savings in case the worst happens.
4) Plan, but take your time getting there.
There’s no doubt you spent a lot of time daydreaming about white picket fences and a yard full of kids from the moment you feel in love. To go along with building up your savings, hold off on making the big purchases for a while. It’s not going to hurt to rent a decent apartment for a few years while you build up your savings.
Do you really need the top of the line car or the best cable package? Whatever the case may be, sit down and plan out your future. Cut spending while you can, save as much as possible, and keep your plans close to your heart. Write down a timeline with your goals in place. Maybe buy a house in 5 years rather than right at the beginning.
Are you prepared for children? I wouldn’t be surprised if many kids born are happy little accidents. You can plan for them all you want, but they have a knack of showing up when you least expect them to. Either way, these are all things you should sit down together and talk about. Write up a budget, determine what will go into savings, and grow together.