Last week, I was on the train sitting next to a couple that was getting married the next day. They were both wearing "bride" and "groom" sunglasses. As they chewed gum, they propped their feet up on the train seats next to them. The bride-to-be was scrolling through pictures on her phone and the groom-to-be was looking, commenting and smiling at his new life partner.
They were in bliss.
I immediately congratulated them and opened up a book to do some reading.
After a few minutes, the groom asked me if I had any advice for them once he noticed my wedding ring.
I love being asked that question as a personal finance coach.
I didn't have much time to give them my advice because we were approaching their stop, but here's three major pieces of advice I gave to them or would give to any couple looking for a place to start with their finances once they combine lives and budgets.
1. Make amassing wealth a priority in your finances. When I asked about their financial plan, the bride-to-be joked and said to her future husband, "Hey, you better make a lot of money." I honestly hope that they've talked about their financial future before their big day.
Couples that don't talk about how much they want to earn, save, invest, and tithe (for those that subscribe to tithing), will suffer a massive blow. Couples should use their youth and time to maximize their earning and saving potential. It is always more tempting and much easier to spend than save, so if as a couple you are not making shared decisions about your financial daily behaviors, you will be doomed to a shared life of living from paycheck to paycheck and drowning in debt.
2. Set up banking systems and structures that work for where you are in your marriage. There is an ongoing debate about the "correct" or "ideal" number of bank accounts a married couple should have. Personally, I think half of the debate is rubbish. Based on your religious beliefs, personal experiences with the opposite sex and money, your combined view of money will vary greatly from the next couple's. Your outlook will also evolve as you both get to know one another more intimately in your marriage. If you want to start with keeping everything separate, then do so. If you want to maintain your individual accounts and establish shared checking and savings accounts, that works too. If you want to put all of your money in one big bucket, then do it. Don't let anyone else's views on money and marriage force you to do something that neither of you are comfortable with.
3. Start saving as soon as possible. The term "honeymoon" phase is such a misnomer. Aside from the many adjustments you will have to make as a new couple, especially if you haven't lived together first, it's important to know that the world doesn't stop for you and doesn't stop throwing you curve balls (or dropping anvils) just because you are newly married. Within the first year of my marriage, my husband experienced a layoff and I was all types of sick. Each of these life occurrences had financial implications. Luckily, my husband and I could sustain ourselves with the loss of income and most of my illness was covered by my insurance.
But what if we weren't able to?
Newly married couples have to expect the best, but plan for the worst when it comes to making sense of their finances as a couple.
Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at www.thefrugalfeminista.com. Download her free ebook "The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan: Eliminate Debt, Know Your Worth, and Heal Your Relationship with Money in Just 5 Days."