About the Talk
June 2, 2014 4:00 AM
Summertime is upon us, and with that comes a very popular time of the year for folks to marry. Before tying the knot, you both need to take financial inventory–seriously. With student debt at historic highs and people waiting longer to marry, the likelihood of people saying “I do” changes some part of that vow to “Yes, I will accept your debt, too.” Have the talk now; don’t wait.
So let’s start with simply comparing spending habits. DO NOT assume that your spouse shares the same beliefs about spending and saving. Talk about how you feel about cars; retirement accounts; a good cushion for savings; and, of course, the largest purchase you both will ever make--your home.
Next is coming out of the “financial closet.” Please discuss your incomes, student debt, credit card debt, and what you may or may have not saved for retirement. Compare statements and credit history. Know your financial scores (you can obtain free credit reports). This is important. When you marry, you take on your partner’s debt–like it nor not. If your partner would ever have to file for bankruptcy, that will affect you. If you want to buy a house, his or her credit score will affect what you can buy and the rate you will pay for it.
Combined salaries, we’ve hit the jackpot! That means we can live a super crazy lifestyle! Yes, two can live as cheaply as one and will most likely save you money on rent, utilities, food, and so on. However, when combining two salaries, some couples feel that it’s a windfall and go bananas. Don’t do that. Create a budget. If possible, try to live on one salary and save some of the other. One of you could get laid off, change careers, or go back to school. Then there’s the family you could start, and I don’t need to tell you children are expensive. Avoid credit cards–if you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it (sorry).
Try to put away at least 10 percent of your combined gross income each year toward retirement. Take advantage of employer matched plans to the fullest extent. You may think you have time to save for retirement and this is not necessary now, but it is. Considering the staggering amount of people with no retirement savings; they may have thought the same as you and thought they had plenty of time to save. If you can’t do 10 percent, start with something. It can make a difference.
You may want to consider getting some insurance. There are many different types of insurance such as term life, catastrophic medical insurance, and long-term disability. Although some of these policies are offered through employment, check to see if it’s enough and compare. This is a very important but often ignored part of financial planning.
If this is a second marriage, the time is now to find out about financial obligations to the ex or the children from the marriage.
Lastly, when all the dust settles after the big day, you may want to create a will. Even if you have one, you may need to update it after you marry. If something were to happen to either of you, or both of you, and there is nothing legal in place, it can become a huge mess for your surviving family members. Contact an attorney today and get to it. It’s not everyone’s favorite thing to do, to discuss mortality after such a wonderful event, but it’s really important.
Money discussions are not an easy task for anyone, especially newlyweds. But you are a team now, and it’s important to have an open mind and get these things on the table. This is a time to enjoy life–but do it within your means so you can both sleep at night.