Getting engaged? Don’t make these serious financial mistakes
Valentine’s Day means love is in the air and some people are popping the question, but those proposals should come with one more thing beside a ring: Serious money talks.
Getting engaged is romantic and talking retirement plans and budgets are not, but forgoing money talks, because they’re awkward or taboo, can doom a relationship. Before they get hitched, experts say couples should discuss finances.
It may be awkward to have these conversations, but here are 5 mistakes to avoid:
1. Spending too much on a wedding
Nobody should start their married lives in debt because of a wedding. Young couples already go into marriage with debt for other reasons, whether it’s consumer debt or because they are one of more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
Yet weddings are expensive, and people often get caught up in the planning process. The average cost of a wedding, according to wedding site The Knot, is more than $30,000, for those who opt to get married at a fancy venue, hire professional wedding planners and insist their guests have access to a photo booth. But it’s possible to do it for a fraction of that amount. Advisers suggest keeping wedding costs in check if couples can’t afford them, and saving appropriately for both the wedding and honeymoon. Make a budget and assign an amount to each aspect of the big day and any following vacation, said Dara Luber, family finance specialist at TD Ameritrade.
2. Starting money talks after marriage
Alyssa Fischer, a personal finance blogger at Mixed Up Money, has plenty of soon-to-be-married friends who say they’ll talk about budgets after the wedding day. “I think a lot of couples assume that their partner feels the same way about money as they do, and that’s not always the case,” she said. “No one wants to hurt another person’s feelings by stating they spend too much on wing night or Sephora runs. However, once you’re married those conversations will be unavoidable.”
Does this mean consolidating finances before marriage? No, said Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial,” but couples do need to have “full frontal financial nudity.” “Before you get married, you need to know all the ins and outs.”
See: Are engagement rings passe?
3. Keeping your dreams and expectations to yourself
The silent killer of relationships is unmet expectations, wrote lifestyle blogger Derek Harney, “I think healthy, realistic expectations that are communicated are good to have,” he said. “They’re something to reach for.” Financially, the most dangerous expectations could be that everything in the couple’s shared life will remain the same, said Bridget Casey, a personal finance blogger at Money After Graduation. “Your financial lives will change over the years because of layoffs, children [and] illness/disability,” she said. “What are the expectations for income, saving, debt repayment as individual circumstances change and affect the couple?”
Also see: 10 things married couples won’t tell you
4. Hiding your bank accounts and shopping addiction
Out of fear or shame, one in five people in live-in relationships said they commit “financial infidelity,” meaning they have a private bank account or credit card their partner doesn’t know about, according to a recent CreditCards.com survey.
“Financial infidelity can be just as threatening to a healthy relationship as physical cheating and can ultimately lead to a breakup,” said Kimberly Foss, a financial adviser and president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif. “Anything like that needs to be getting shared with a partner moving into a marriage because you’re building a financial life together,” Lowry said. Have regular talks and be empathetic toward your partner, who may feel uncomfortable about his or her difficulty managing money. “Even if you bank separately, you’re still a team,” she said. “What one person does impacts the other’s life.”
5. Avoiding conversations about your salary
Not everyone shares the details of their paychecks with their partners. Only half of men tell their partners how much they make, compared to 60% of women, according to a survey by financial firm Aspiration. And if they do share that information, it’s only likely to happen when they move in together. Some 41% of respondents said that was the best time to talk salary.
Another survey, recently published by Bank of America, found almost one in five millennials did not know how much their spouse or partner earned. But when you are sharing utilities and taking equal responsibility for paying the rent every month, even that may be too late. And for some people, there’s another good reason to get these figures on the table: Half of the participants said they think married or cohabiting couples should split financial responsibilities by income.
More from MarketWatch
- Immortalize your love on the blockchain this Valentine’s Day
- Here’s the latest country where cash is losing its grip
- A very modern love story: A broken Apple laptop threatens to destroy a relationship