Getting married in 2021? How to budget for the big day and beyond
Why you should get your financial house in order before walking down the aisle
According to most bridal magazines, we are in the midst of what is known as “proposal season.”
TheKnot.com reports that nearly 40 percent of all engagements happen between November and February, with five of the most popular days for proposals landing between those four months. So, for many of you, wedding bells might be ringing soon.
For those who will be planning a wedding this year, I suggest getting your financial house in order before walking down the aisle. While finding the perfect dress or venue might be at the top of your to-do list, making sure you’re on the same page financially as your partner should also be a top priority. Reviewing a financial checklist is a good start. Here are some things to consider as you begin the discussion:
Combining bank accounts
If you share a home or apartment, odds are you also share the expenses as well, especially if you both work full time. A joint checking account can make life a lot simpler because you have a record of what you spend all in one place. You should also keep separate accounts for individual personal expenses. With your separate accounts you can each make a deposit every month into the joint account to pay the common bills.
Planning for retirement
Is saving for retirement a common goal? Do you both agree to put away money every month into your respective 401K plans? Do you save money annually with a Roth IRA or a regular IRA? A Roth IRA is a much better option if you qualify and do not make more than $206,000 jointly. Withdrawals after age 59½ are tax free. With a regular IRA you must pay taxes on withdrawals when you start taking them. You also need to decide who is going to manage your investments. Are you going to hire an investment professional or designate one of the two of you to do it? Sorting out those decisions now will result in less confusion later.
If you are sharing expenses that are not fixed every month like rent, how do you also decide on what to spend on food, utilities, cable or eating out? It is important to sit down at the kitchen table with all the monthly bills to set a budget together. You should review what you are jointly spending at least quarterly to make sure you are not wasting money on expense that don’t make sense, such as cable service you don’t watch.
Student loans, large credit card bills, or low credit scores can cause some real problems in a marriage. Better to discuss these debts before you get married. With interest rates so incredibly low today you should look to refinance all your debt at lower rates or pay debts off with excess cash.
Contact the three credit bureaus to obtain your latest credit scores. If they are lower than you think they should be, obtain a copy of your scores and see if there are any mistakes.
With fraud these days, it’s wise to check your reports to determine if identify theft could be erroneously causing you to have a lower score, which hurts you when buying a home or automobile.
See if there are ways to improve your score, such as signing up to pay bills automatically, to avoid paying late and racking up fees and marks against your score.
If you are planning on getting married and your significant other has outside investments, owns their house, has investment accounts, or has inherited wealth through a trust fund, it could make sense to protect these assets legally before you get married.
Divorce is incredibly expensive and in some cases individuals with less earning power never recover a hundred percent from a divorce depending on when they separate. Most couples getting remarried with significant assets will do a prenuptial agreement to protect their assets for their children from a previous marriage just in case things do not work out. Once burned twice shy is an old adage that estate planning attorneys like to use.
Sadly quite a few first marriages will not make it and even fewer second and third marriages survive. Make sure you hire an attorney who specializes in prenuptial agreements. You want someone who does these agreements regularly. They need to be airtight and done correctly to stand up.
While you’d probably rather be planning your honeymoon than having difficult conversations about money, being transparent and honest about how you plan to handle your finances will help you and your future spouse create a strong foundation for your marriage. There is no reason to be surprised by your financial circumstances before you tie the knot. Plan now and you will be happy that you did on that front too.
Fred Taylor co-founded Northstar Investment Advisors, LLC in 1995. The firm specializes in managing personalized investment portfolios for individuals, families, and retirees with a focus on income generation. He is a member of the Colorado Forum and also served as an economic advisor to Colorado Governor Bill Ritter from 2008 to 2010.