By Taylor Schulte
As cliché as it may sound to all those opposed to the hallmark holiday, Valentine’s Day is an extremely popular day for proposals. Each year, millions of Americans are either planning on popping the question around Feb. 14 or are expecting a proposal — hopefully both with a good outcome in sight.
Regardless of which side of the engagement you’re on, an important thing to consider when deciding to take that next big step together is not only how, when and where to wed one another, but also how to successfully marry your finances.
Studies show that no matter how much a person makes, fights about money are among the biggest frictions in a marriage and top contributors to divorce. While everyone sees financial well-being differently, there are things you can do to ensure that friction is minimized, so that you can spend more time doing the things you love and building a life together.
Whether you’re planning on saying your “I do’s” in the forthcoming years or celebrating your 30th wedding anniversary, below are my financial recommendations for a happier union — mostly as a financial planner, but also as a husband.
Talk About It
Even though I’ve been in this industry for years, I’m still surprised by how many people don’t discuss finances with their life partners. While some simply prefer not to talk about money, others just don’t know how to go about it. Similar to other parts of your relationship, keeping the financial lines of communication open is essential for success.
Having an ongoing financial check-up on the calendar — whether it’s weekly, monthly or even semi-annually — is a great way to touch base and check in on current fiscal affairs. In my household, we call it a financial roundtable. My wife and I sit down together and discuss our financial situation and identify short-term and long-term goals. Having a clear understanding of where you are financially and where you want to be in a month’s time or in five years will go a long way in ensuring both of you are working towards the same goals and minimize any miscommunication with regards to spending and saving.
Couples That Save Together, Stay Together
In addition to hosting a recurring financial roundtable, I recommend having a budget in place and a plan for saving as a couple. Even if your idea of saving and your contributions may be different from your partner’s, putting a plan together on how to budget your expenses and save towards common goals can minimize misunderstandings and, in turn, conflicts over money.
Creating a family budget starts with aggregating your revenues and writing down every possible expense, including a line item for savings, allowing for miscellaneous items that may come up unexpectedly. It doesn’t matter you are allocating $10 or $1,000 to savings monthly as a start — the important thing is that you’re saving and growing those contributions together.
Also, if you have big plans ahead, such as a wedding, vacation or a new baby, you can create an additional savings account with that purpose in mind. That way you won’t be dipping into your core savings and maximize the interest on those funds.
There’s an App for That
Not everyone is born with a knack for managing finances, and even those who have a clear understanding of what needs to be done are often too busy focusing on other important parts of their life, such as bringing in revenue, taking care of their kids, their health or having a social life.
The great news is that, nowadays, there are a number of easy-to-use on-the-go tools that can help with personal finances. From mobile banking, to financial apps that organize your cash flow, it’s no longer necessary to invest a significant amount of time and energy to understand your current financial well-being. Some of my favorite apps include Mint, which helps manage your bills and spending, and Acorns, which automatically invests your spare change.
It’s a lot easier to ignore your personal finances then tackle them head on, but as you plan to share your life with someone, it’s best to set yourself up for success from the very beginning. Your finances are a big part of your life and as you take that next step in sharing your life with your soon-to-be husband or wife, know that the more you communicate and work towards the same financial goals, the less the risk of misunderstanding and the greater chance for a happy union — personally and financially.
Taylor Schulte, a Certified Financial Planner, is the founder and CEO of Define Financial in downtown San Diego. He specializes in helping individuals, families and small businesses achieve their financial goals.
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