Each Friday, I answer a reader’s question. If you want to submit a question, you can contact me today.
Using the survey, a reader asked, “How should my finances look before getting engaged?”
In a previous series, I outlined 5 essential financial choices for young people. In that series, I was hoping to teach young people how to put themselves in a good financial position so they could capitalize on that in the future. One of my suggestions was to marry someone who has a clue about money.
If you are a 12 year old asking the question, I’d say you should be debt free and have the money saved to pay for a wedding. If, however, you are a 23 year old who is dating a person you really want to marry, my answer would be different.
I’ll answer the question assuming you’re actually old enough that marriage is years away, not decades.
My answer is simple. Your finances are what they are. I would not delay an engagement for reasons of debt. More important than getting out of debt before marriage is having a detailed game plan and a unified heart.
Here’s why: You’ll both make the same amount of money married or unmarried. You will both have the same amount of debt combined. The key question is: are you in agreement about what you should do about your finances once married? If so, you can get married now and clean up the finances as long as you are willing to have an affordable wedding.
5 Critical Financial Steps For Engaged Couples
- Premarital counseling is a must. Take time to sit down with a counselor or church leader who can help you as a couple identify your strengths and your weaknesses.
- A realistic financial plan is a necessity. Based on your income and your amount of debt, how long will it take you to get out of debt? Do you both agree that the plan is realistic? Are you both willing to make the necessary sacrifices? Are you both willing to accept responsibility for the debt?
- Create a mock budget. Talk can be cheap. If you’ve agreed on a financial plan, now it is time to take your actual income today and spend it on paper. I suggest you do it separately, and then bring your lists together and see how easily you an get those numbers on one budget you make together.
- Clearly disclose everything about your finances. This is critical. Some couples fear that the other person would not have married them if they knew how much debt they had. However, if you cannot be completely open and honest with this person, they cannot be your marriage partner because marriage involves full disclosure in everything.
- Keep everything separate until you are married. Don’t buy a house while you are engaged. Don’t start paying on each other’s debt. Engagement is a step above dating, but it is not a full commitment to each other. Once are legally married, then combine your finances. However, you don’t want to complicate things by combining finances before marriage.
Any other tips for things couples should do to help financially prepare for marriage?