October 22, 2016

Why You Should Have a Financial Plan Before You Get Married

As June approaches, so does the excitement of thousands of young couples looking forward to their happy day. A wedding is an emotional event. Choosing who you want to marry and actually getting married will affect the rest of your life. Picking the wrong person can lead to divorce, which is devastating emotionally and financially. So, it is extremely important that a person thinks long and hard about their choice of a partner.

Beyond that, the actual wedding day can have a tremendous affect on a couple’s future. To begin with, we all know that weddings are expensive. Very expensive. One of the first and most important decisions a couple will make is how much to spend on their big day.

Most people cut costs when they themselves are spending the money, but see it differently when parents are providing the cash. I would like to raise some thoughts on this. The average wedding costs $27,000. This can be used to pay off a spouse’s college loans, buy a new car with great gas mileage, or be part of the down payment on a $200,000 home. $27,000 is a lot of money and it can go in a lot of directions.

No matter who is paying for your wedding, the couple needs to ask themselves: do we have student loans, will we need a new car soon, and do we want a home? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you have to make a choice. Are you willing to give up the house for being a princess for ONE day? Are you willing to continue paying off your student loans (along with all the interest) just so you can have a big party? Are you willing to take the bus when your car goes? Those are just immediate expenses a young couple can run into. There is also just life — people get sick, life changes unexpectedly, and, one day, you will wish you had $30,000 in the bank because you know you would sleep better if you did. (It’s Wedding Season, But Can You Afford to Say, “I Do?”)

As a society, there are certain expectations that our generation has been raised with. A big expensive wedding is one of them. When you make your choice, you must ask yourself if you are doing this because it is expected. Does extended family and friends put certain pressure on you? Or are you doing this because you can really afford it and really want it?

I have a dear friend who had a $30,000 country club wedding. At the time of the wedding, her husband lost his job and had to declare bankruptcy right after their wedding. They moved into a small apartment and tried putting their life back together.

Then, they got pregnant with their first child.

Now, the house that didn’t matter more than a wedding was now all consuming just a few short years later. They bought a cheap house thinking they would move in five years. Seven years later, the housing market burst and they are still there. Today, I hear my friend talk about how she wishes for a better kitchen, a nicer neighborhood, and a new home — almost daily. Yet, if they would have taken the wedding costs and their down payment, they would have had $50,000  — enough for a $200,000 to $300,000 house. That’s a big step up in their world.

You may say, “Well, they rushed to have kids or they were stupid.” I wouldn’t do that. I would like to remind you about one small fact. Weddings are emotional and, as long as you look at your wedding day in an emotional way, you will make mistakes. Falling in love is wonderful. Getting married is beautiful. However, there are 60 years or more left after that ONE day. Your goal is to make sure each one of those days can be happy and beautiful too!

Finally, a large reason marriages break up are due to money issues. If you chose to have the big pretty wedding day, then make sure you and your spouse are prepared for the difficult decisions that you may have to make and the stress you may feel for months (or even years) later.

Weddings are just one day, but marriage is supposed to be forever. Wealth can last for an hour — or for generations. It is all up to you and how you choose to spend it.

Anna Domzalski is a staff writer for Financial Bin covering Budgeting, Wealth, Education, and Real Estate. Have a question for Anna? Email her at Anna@FinancialBin.com.

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