TNIB is excited to introduce TNIB’s Sister. She has been a guest blogger on The New Indian Bride before (see her previous post here: http://tinyurl.com/4pmfmnd). Now she is back with a regular series on all those topics brides and grooms should be thinking about as they prep for the MARRIAGE, not just the wedding. Take it away sis!
Between the engagement and the wedding day, a soon-to-be bride’s life is full of fetes–engagement soirees, bridal showers, and bachelorette parties. For most brides and grooms, all this celebration leaves little time to think about the realities of married life. One of these realities: MONEY. I know none of us like to talk about filthy lucre (isn’t it stressful enough to discuss the wedding budget?), but a major part of married life is navigating financial togetherness. If you avoid discussing finances before the wedding, you may be in for some unpleasant surprises (and uncomfortable discussions) when the honeymoon’s over.
In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about some of the financial and legal consequences of tying the knot. For now, think about your marriage vows as metaphors for marital money:
1. FOR RICHER, FOR POORER. Do you finance your fashion-forward wardrobe with an ever-increasing cadre of credit cards? Is your handsome, well-educated surgical resident fiance drowning in tens of thousands of dollars of medical school debt? Chances are your courtship included candy and flowers–not discussions of debt. Before the wedding, lay your cards on the table. What is your salary, credit score, debt load, and savings? What are your financial goals (owning a home, saving for vacation, going back to school)? How can you make these goals fit together?
2. LOVE, HONOR AND OBEY. That last word is where marital money gets tricky. By getting married, you are creating a legal partnership. It’s often easy, though, to fall into the mindset that whoever makes the most money should get to call the financial shots: money = control. That’s a recipe for marital discord. Here’s where a legal concept is helpful–think of your marriage as a “community.” Here in California, “community property” (the reason assets get split 50-50 at divorce) describes the concept that both partners are contributing to the marital community–even if one partner makes a lot more money than the other. For example, if you work long hours and bring home the bacon, perhaps your husband does the banking and picks up the kids from school, or vice versa. Each one of you is contributing to the community; the unpaid work a partner does contributes to the success of your community just as much as breadwinning. So don’t use the number of zeros in your paycheck to pull rank on your partner–and let your partner know that you won’t accept it if he tries to do the same.
3. FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE. As the dollars are flying out the door for your wedding expenses, it may be hard to put money aside for the future or for emergencies. But even if you and your fiance are lucky enough to be financially comfortable in this economy, things can change in an instant. We make plans and God laughs. So as you and your fiance decide to take on financial commitments together, planning for worst-case scenarios (job loss, disability, illness, and death) is important. Talk to a professional about purchasing long-term disability and life insurance. Get the paperwork in order to add your spouse as a beneficiary on your policies and accounts. Make a plan to set aside a little bit each month so that, at the end of the first year of marriage, you have an emergency fund set up.
Discussing these un-sexy topics now may help you keep the honeymoon going just a little longer. For more tips, check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/24/your-money/24money.html.
Next up: Yours, mine, and ours: How do two financially independent people merge their money after marriage?
–TNIB’s Sister. (TNIB’s sister is a licensed attorney but this article here is for informational purposes only. If you need advice specific to your situation, please contact a certified financial professional or attorney in your area.)