Whether you love money, enjoy spreadsheets, think money is evil, or simply don’t care about money management at all… one fact is universally true: we all need money (or some form of currency) to live in this world. Those who are not as concerned about money management might be more likely to get married before they are on good financial footing and those who are into every detail of their money management may be tempted to put marriage off until their financial plan is “perfect” – which is never. ~smile~ Finances should be considered when making the decision to get engaged, but it does not have to be as black and white as “we have enough money” or “we don’t have enough money.”
Not Enough Money
If you and your sweetie cannot financially care for yourselves without the help of others, I would strongly suggest waiting until you can before getting married. If you are still dependent on parents or others to pay your bills, there will be a struggle with loyalty after marriage. “I’m married, so my spouse should come first in my life, but since my parents are paying our bills, they still treat me like a child.” Marriage is for adults, and you will want your parents, friends, and society to treat you as an adult.
However, if you can support yourselves, but you are concerned that you do not have enough saved, that may not be a reason to wait. Answer these questions:
- Do we have steady jobs (or does one of us have a steady job that will pay the bills)?
- Do we have a little savings for emergencies?
- Are we both committed to saving our money and making wise financial choices after marriage?
- Have we fully disclosed our debts and financial habits with each other?
Many couples start out on the rice and beans side of the financial equation, have survived, and grew to be very financially comfortable. Not having a lot of money is probably not a good reason to indefinitely postpone marriage, but you do want to be comfortable in your ability to pay your own bills.
We Have Enough Money
If you have a lot of money set aside and you are doing super great financially, that is wonderful… but be careful not to look at your financial situation as your only indicator of whether or not the time is right. If you have a lot of money, but you have a lot of communication problems, your abundance of money will not make up for what your relationship lacks. You may be able to medicate yourself with more Starbucks (or whatever your heart fancies in a purchase), but a happy marriage does take a lot more than a daily caramel frappuccino. ~smile~
Create a Financial Plan
Most of us will not enter our twenties with a firm financial footing. It takes the average Joe and Jill a few years (i.e., a couple decades) to reach the level of comfort their parents enjoy. We cannot jump into marriage expecting to have the same quality of life our parents have after they have worked hard for thirty plus years. What is more important to consider before marriage is not “Do we have enough money” but “Do we have a workable financial plan and are we both willing to follow it?”
If you and your sweetie have not yet, please, please, please check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at a local church. If you do what he teaches, you will easily make back your investment in no time. The classes are usually around $100 and are worth their weight in gold.
Before getting engaged, talk about money thoroughly. Talk about how your parents handled money. Talk about your quirks with money (e.g., thrifty to a fault, love to spend, uncomfortable managing money, etc.). If you are certain that this person could be your spouse, be open about your finances. Do not combine your finances, but be open about your financial situation. Then, sit down together and work up a financial plan (budget) based on your combined income, savings, and debts. If you are not sure how to do a budget, don’t be ashamed to ask for advice from older couples; and, Financial Peace University covers budgeting in great detail! (note: engaged couples can go through the class under one membership fee if the wedding date is set for less than a year from the start of the class).
So many struggles come from poor money management and poor financial communication in marriage, so before you commit to putting a ring on her finger (or accepting his ring) make sure you have fully discussed the management of money, what it means to you, and how the two of you will manage it once you are married. There are thousands of older, wiser couples who would beg you to get your finances in order before getting married. Too many have learned the hard way!
Have you and your sweetie thoroughly discussed money? Are you on the same page with finances? Are you committed to following a financial plan?