Editor’s note: we don’t talk a lot about marriage here, because it’s such a huge topic in its own right that the occasional article would never do it justice. It is, however, frequently a foundation of the family and as such, this article is a good one for parents to read.
Marriage is full of challenges. When a marriage counselor gets together with a couple that is struggling, they usually find that the couple’s problems are either about sex or money. Problems in the bedroom are often solved rather easily, but those problems involving money are much more complicated.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that the couple hasn’t ever really talked about money. Each person comes into the relationship with preconceived ideas about money and how to manage it. It’s okay if both happen to have exactly the same ideas and values regarding money, but the odds are stacked heavily against that happening. The only course of action which will prove beneficial to the couple’s relationship is to talk about it. In fact, they may find that they need to talk about money nearly every day until they have a complete mutual understanding about how they will deal with their finances.
For some people, having a budget is about as basic and simple as waking up and going to work each morning. Other people are terrible at using a budget or maybe don’t even know what a budget actually is. Regardless, when you put two people together, they need to sit down and discuss how the money is to be spent. This requires dividing their weekly or monthly money into several different funds. Determining how much money goes into each is one of the first challenges they will face. It may take some trial and error before discovering how the couple can best meet all of their debts and still have money available for some recreation and other financial items.
One aspect of budgeting that they should address early on is how to deal with credit. Many couples don’t understand the relationship between marriage and credit scores. When planning a budget, couples should also examine their credit reports. By understanding their credit reports, they can make appropriate plans for getting a mortgage and for making major purchases. They should never ignore their credit reports, as they hold the key to future financial planning. If they don’t understand them, they should visit a financial advisor and have the information about credit scores explained to them
One thing that many couples run into right away is deciding how they will deal with any financial emergencies that may arise. Being able to deal with these emergencies requires planning and brainstorming to determine exactly what those emergencies might be, and how much money they will need to have set aside to deal with them. Some couples run into problems here because one of the partners considers using a credit card as a reasonable means for handling emergencies. Others aren’t always in agreement with what constitutes an emergency, and so is often dipping into the emergency fund. Maintaining a viable emergency fund requires self-discipline and a solid plan that both partners understand and agree to. Failing to communicate about how to deal with financial emergencies can quickly lead to strife and frustration within the relationship.
When many couples first get married, retirement is the furthest thing from their mind. They are looking at a long life together, raising children, or perhaps seeing the world together. However, planning for retirement is one of the very first things they should sit down and discuss. Right along with budgeting and emergency funds, a viable retirement account requires some planning and forethought. In order to make a retirement plan that will accommodate the style of living hoped for in their golden years, a couple needs to discuss all of their expectations and personal dreams regarding retirement. They also need to realize that concerns about credit scores don’t end at retirement. They should do a credit score check before they even begin making retirement plans. In fact, many financial advisors will recommend that they monitor credit scores as one means of keeping a watchful eye on their future retirement plans. Failing to do so may result in unmet plans and unanticipated shortfalls which can ruin their retirement plans.
Preparing for a life-long relationship begins with open and frank discussions about everything. In fact, couples should have some serious discussions about finances before the relationship becomes serious enough to consider marriage. It would be better to enter marriage with a full understanding of each other’s financial expectations, rather than be surprised a few months after the honeymoon. It may even be a wise move to check a prospective partner’s credit score and history to see if the two of you have common values regarding personal finances and managing money. Once you know that you and your new partner are in agreement, then sitting down to discuss budgets, emergency funds, and retirement should be a much less complicated process.
Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want peace in their finances.