5 Must-Do’s Before You Say “I Do”
So you finally did it. You popped the question, and she (or he) said yes. But, the real work of getting married is just beginning. In the middle of the excitement there are some details that need to be discuss that, in the long run, will prove to be far more important than the color of the brides maids dresses, or whether Uncle Frank should sit at the same table as Cousin Tom.
Discussing money and finances can be stressful but it is much better to get the answers before take the plunge. A recent study showed that 1 in 5 couples didn’t discuss their finances before marriage and 1 in 6 still do not discuss their finances with each other even after getting married.
With financial concerns still being the top cause of divorce, it is important to settle these questions long before day one. Here are 5 things that you must do BEFORE you say, “I do”.
1) Find out where you are. This is often the most difficult discussion to have. For most people, finances are a very personal affair. You have just spent the last 2 years showing her how great you are, and now you have to lay out all your dirty laundry.
Remember that the purpose of this conversation is not to find out who has done a better job financially so far. It is not a competition. The purpose of the talk is to clearly and honestly lay out exactly where each of you are.
What is your income? What are your debts? Student loans? Have you ever been bankrupt? Do you have a trust fund or other sources of income? Do you have any financial obligations to former spouses?
It has been said that you need to enter marriage with both of your eyes open and then close one of them. Make sure that you are not hiding any skeletons that will be certain to cause problems for the marriage later down the road.
2) Agree on where you want to be. Every person has their own financial goals. And there isn’t any single right way to view money. So, be honest about what you would like to do with your money.
What are your financial goals? Are you a saver or a spender? When you safe money is it to enjoy it on a trip or are looking further down the road at buying a house or even further toward retirement? Don’t take anything for granted and don’t be afraid to say exactly what you want.
Your goals don’t need to match up. In fact, studies have shown that having different views on finances can actually be beneficial if both parties are honest with their expectations and actively participate in the financial decisions.
3) Make a plan to get there. Whatever you decide your goals should be, you should make a plan to get there. This includes coming up with a budget and then following it.
Decide ahead of time how you will structure your finances. Will you have joint accounts where all of your incomes are pooled together? Will you keep your finances completely separate? If you do, who will pay the bills? How much money will you put aside for saving and what will you use the money that you have saved up for? Will you have a slush fund that you both can draw from for unexpected expenses? Will you set aside “mad money” for each partner that you are not accountable to each other for at all?
4) Plan to regularly review and update the plan. Reviewing your budget and your financial situation is probably the most overlooked step of any marriage. Money has a way of making intangible things, like love and commitment, tangible, so have a system to track how you are doing. Financial management apps like PocketGuard automatically categorize your spending and allow you to use hash tags to instantly sort out your spending while you review your bills and expenses.
Also, it is important to have a system in place so that when (not if) you stray from your budget, you already know how you will discuss it. Decide on a safety word so that the other person knows that you want to discuss something but that you don’t want to come across like you are getting them in trouble. You are just following your plan on how to deal with deviations.
One thing you can be sure of is that your financial situation will change and you will try to push the limits of your budget. But recognizing this and planning how you will deal with it, will save you a lot of stress and strained lungs in the future.
5) Encourage each other along the way. Don’t forget that money is supposed to be your servant, not the other way around. Encourage each other and help each other achieve the goals that you have set individually and collectively.
Don’t only discuss finances when you have something bad to say. Share your successes as well. Recognize and celebrate your successes together. Once you have started discussing finances together keep it an active and safe topic to discuss.
Very few people have had official training in how to manage their money in a marriage so it is certain that you will come into it with different points of view, but deciding how you will manage your resources can be a great sense of joy for both of you if you honestly and openly create your financial future together.
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