Wedding season is upon us once more, and I love watching many couples take the exciting plunge into married life. Weddings are a wonderful time to celebrate community and connection, and the wedding cake and champagne aren't a bad bonus either!
While we often envision our marriages filled with love and laughter — and these will most certainly be present— the truth is that marriage is sometimes stressful and difficult as well. Financial disagreements are one of the most common causes of marital stress, and for good reason. Money issues tend to affect our lives in big ways, and if we aren't prepared they can result in a lot of stress and discord. As Jennifer Ryan Woods, acclaimed author and financial expert, explains in Forbes,
“Money issues are so troublesome that people who say they’re experiencing stress in their relationship cite finances as the number one reason… [and] money issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces, making it the third leading cause.”
Sound foreboding for those tying the knot? It doesn’t have to be. As my wedding gift to all the newlyweds this year, I'd like to share a few finance tips that will reduce stress for new and established couples alike.
1. Be Truthful Before the Big Day
It's an unfortunate tale, but not an altogether uncommon one: a couple falls in love, gets married, and begins their new life together — perhaps by applying for a home loan or joint credit card — only to find out that one or both of them have major financial issues. These might include a previous bankruptcy, low credit scores, or occasionally even alimony or child support payments from previous marriages. When this is the case, the marriage begins on rough footing and it can take time for the couple to rebuild trust.
Instead of entering a marriage this way, it's much better to build a foundation of honesty. Though these can be difficult topics to broach, it's well worth it to have an in-depth money talk before you get hitched. In an article for Forbes, Linda Descano, the chief executive of Citi’s Women & Co., writes that it's best for couples to do the following before getting married:
“… [review] all major debts like education, business or home loans and significant credit card balances. Pull up credit scores from a site like annualcreditreport.com, and ask if they have filed for bankruptcy. Otherwise, you’ll likely be caught off guard when you attempt to complete a large purchase together.”
When we enter into marriage, we make vows to our significant other to love them, to support them, and to always be honest with them. So, be honest about your financials with your future spouses before the big day. Both of you will feel more secure.
2. Be Wary of Your Wedding Cost
Our wedding day is a significant event that many of us have big ideas about well ahead of time. While we want to remember every second for years to come, we also don’t want to be dealing with the debt for years to come. The average wedding in America today costs over $25,000, and in large cities like New York City and Los Angeles, the bill can run to three-times as much! Add in the cost of a honeymoon, and many couples spend a huge amount of money before they even tie the knot.
Instead of spending your entire savings on these important but fleeting events, Michael Egan, certified financial planner and partner at Egan, Berger & Weiner LLC, argues for investing in the future in an article for Business Insider. He advises,
“Host a smaller wedding, and use the extra money to put toward a down payment on a house. Pulling off a great wedding under $5,000 is possible if you plan on a budget.”
By having a less expensive wedding and investing the money you would have spent in future needs like a down payment or an education fund for your children, you'll set a solid financial foundation for your family for years to come.
3. Create a Household Budget
It's probably the oldest financial advice in the book, but deciding on and sticking to a spending plan can make your life as a couple much less stressful. Calculating a budget together can even be a nice bonding experience for new couples and can ensure that both of you are on the same page when it comes to where your money is going. With the advent of recent technologies and software applications, budgeting is more painless than ever. Tools such as Mint and Budget Pulse can help you budget your expenses and ensure you’re building both a healthy bank account and relationship.
Without a budget to guide you, financial stress can begin to creep in and place a burden on the relationship. A budget is key to keeping your married life stress free!
While these can be difficult conversations to initiate, they are definitely worth having and will strongly benefit your union. Don't ignore them. If we put off addressing possible financial issues, we don't give ourselves a good shot at a happy future with our spouse. Every relationship will encounter difficulties, and it's not possible to avoid financial disagreements entirely, but if you have those difficult conversations early, they will be easier to have later too. A successful and lasting marriage is one built on trust and honesty, and these tips should help you build that strong foundation from the start.
What financial advice do you think is important for newlyweds to know? Share your advice by tweeting @Lindsey2Wealth!