June is peak wedding season, meaning there will be a lot of happy couples saying ‘I Do’ in the coming weeks. To make sure these couples stay happy and prevent them from falling victim to the leading cause of friction in marriages – money – consider gifting priceless financial planning tips and best practices instead of flatware or high-quality linens. Not only will this advice serve them now, it will help them better manage their finances in the future.
As I have always said, “Money cannot buy long term happiness, but it can provide you with choices.” Having more choices can help prevent financial friction. Below are some of my best financial planning tips to share with your soon-to-be-married child.
1. Live below your means - It doesn’t matter if you earn $1,000 a week or $10,000 a week: if you spend more that you earn, you will end up broke. The cornerstone of personal finances is to spend less money, so the trick is to be accountable for your spending – this means you need to track where, what and how much you are spending.
2. Don’t choose bigger, choose better - The bigger house, the brand-new car or the latest designer clothes may make you feel good about yourself in the short term, but they may not be the best choice for you financially in the long term. The key is to forget about keeping up with the Jones’ and to not be so concerned how others think about your material things. Love people, not things!
3. There is no such thing as good debt - I left the military after 12 years with over $32,000 of credit card debt, so I am speaking from experience – any type of debt will put you at risk and will cost you more than you realize. That said, there are three situations where you might assume some risk by acquiring debt: purchasing a home, higher education and starting a business. Before acquiring some debt, be sure to do your research first, and keep in mind that you should be earning interest on your money, not paying interest to someone else.
4. If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it - One of the best things you can do financially, newlywed or not, is to put money away for short term emergencies and for retirement (you need to do both). By having money deducted before it hits your checking account, you won’t ever miss it. Remember that the earlier you start saving and the more money you can put away now, the better off you’ll be in retirement. Make a pact with your spouse to start building an emergency fund and contributing more to your IRA and/or 401(k).
5. Those who give the most, have the most - I am not saying those who give the most have the most money, but I have found those who are most satisfied in their lives, are those who give to charities and volunteer. When you give your time and your money, it will help you develop discipline by teaching you to live on less. Not only will you learn more about you and your spouse’s financial situation, you will also be aware of others’ hardships which can help you stay focused on what’s truly important in your life.
6. It’s not what you KNOW, it’s what you DO that matters most - Indecision and procrastination can wreck you financially. As newlyweds, develop a financial plan and strict budget. If you know that you need to spend less, start tracking your spending. If you know you need to spend wisely, don’t be concerned with how big your neighbor’s house is or what type of car they drive. If you know that debt is bad, make a rule to never carry a balance on your credit cards. If you don’t put money away NOW for retirement, don’t expect to have any money for your retirement. You and your spouse are partners, so be each other’s support system by working together and holding each other accountable to stay on track with your financial goals.
Lastly, remember that all the money in the world won’t provide you with the true peace of a joyful life because you will always either a) worry about the money, or b) spend your entire life working yourself to death chasing something that will end up going to someone else anyway.
This wedding season remember the best gift may not be the crystal champagne flutes on the wedding registry – it may not even be on the wedding registry at all. Set your soon-to-be-married child up for success by providing them with the financial planning tips they need for a comfortable life.
Advise your child that one of the first things to do as newlyweds is to sit down with a CFP® professional to assess their current financial situation and map out a financial plan they can follow moving forward. Not only will it set them up for financial success, but they’ll be one less couple fighting about finances.