One Last Question
To end this wedding issue, we wanted to offer a little advice on staying married. One of the biggest reasons couples quarrel is money, so we asked Laura Chiesman, FirstWave Financial’s president, for a couple of quick tips to put this subject to rest for couples young and old(er).
SCL: Usually in this format we ask a few questions to get answers our readers hopefully find interesting. But in this case, we figure you even know the questions better than we do! So knowing we’re out to inform soon-to-be-married couples about keeping their finances in order during this merger, help us get it right.
LAURA: I’d love to. It all starts with a conversation, and sometimes a series of conversations. You need to know about each other’s financial lives so that you can be on the same page, understand each other’s strengths and areas for improvement and then you can benchmark where you are now as a couple. The next step is to define your goals and make a plan to get there, and start working on that plan with the realization that you’re now going to be a team. Work together, take a team approach. Sometimes that involves some compromises.
SCL: What does each person bring to this discussion, and then to the plan?
LAURA: Starting with the facts is always great: credit scores, what your assets and savings are, what your debts are and what your income is. Having this knowledge up front helps you put a plan together. Then define your goals, which might be things like paying o debt, cleaning up credit or buying a home. If either of you have children, or you’re going to have children, what are your expenditures around them? Are you going to combine your investment and bank accounts? You need to decide: are each of you going to maintain your own individual accounts and use a joint account for paying bills? It’s just really fleshing out what you’re each comfortable with. I suggest one person, one member of the couple, take responsibility for paying the bills, but both should stay involved. Maybe you sit down once a month or quarter and say, “Okay, we’re paying the bills and reviewing our investments and savings. Anything else I need to know?” I suggest a scheduled meeting, perhaps order a pizza and have a special night to discuss finances. Make it collaborative and enjoyable; it’s not meant to be torture.
SCL: And then the honeymoon is over, what’s the first step?
LAURA: It’s very important to begin to save right away, or if you’re a couple that’s further down the road, you will want to coordinate your savings and investment efforts. is is something I’d really like to get out there. Whether both spouses work outside the home or not, they should talk about how they can each establish and strengthen their own financial profile. Invest and save together, but also build individual retirement assets and credit histories. Talk openly about each developing and maintaining professional resumès or some sort of work and experience record in case things change down the road. A 10-year gap in a resumè doesn’t look good, so take continuing education classes in your eld, volunteer, really anything to keep your skills honed and ready.
SCL: What’s the biggest problem you see in newlyweds?
LAURA: I see this often: before marriage you have both been working and living on your own income, and now suddenly you’re married and you have two incomes. It can be tempting to double your lifestyle. Go slow on that. Some of the most successful couples I know live on one salary and they save and invest the other. If one partner loses their job or gets ill for an extended period of time, they’re already used to covering expenses on one salary. at’s a real safety net, and you can make great progress towards financial independence. If that’s not possible, start with a realistic savings plan and make it a habit as a couple to spend less than you make!
SCL: Thanks for the great insights. ere is surely something here for every couple, newlywed or not.