Text by Mary Hunt
The wedding may be complicated and expensive, but it’ll soon be over, and then it’s time to settle in and get ready to enjoy your new life together. Lucky for you, I’m here to warn you about some common money myths that newlyweds have been known to bring with them into their marriage.
Myth: Double the income, half the expenses. This is what I call fuzzy newlywed math: Merging your lives and incomes into one household is the equivalent of getting a raise. Don’t believe that — not for a second.
Counter: Start out living on only one income and save the rest. This will require going against everything our culture insists that you deserve, but it will allow you to move seamlessly into parenthood. When that day comes, you’ll have an impressive savings account and options — and a gallery of envious friends.
Myth: There’s stuff we can’t live without. No, there isn’t. But it will be easy to convince yourselves that you absolutely must have matching furniture, new cars, and all kinds of gadgets and services to make your lives easier and keep up with your expectations, to say nothing of your friends.
Counter: Make a pact that you will never go into debt for “stuff.” Period.
Myth: If we qualify, we can afford it. Whether it’s a new credit card or a new nothing-down, interest-only mortgage for a house that you know in your hearts you cannot afford, never allow your ability to qualify be the determining factor. If you cannot pay the entire credit card balance in full each month, or if the mortgage plus the insurance, taxes and maintenance is more than 30 percent of your net income, you can’t afford it. Getting in over your heads is the recipe for a marital disaster.
Counter: Never think of a credit card company, real estate agent or mortgage broker as a financial adviser. They are salespeople looking to close deals. Get advice from a wise person who will not benefit financially from the decision you make.
Myth: We have plenty of time. It does seem as though you have a lifetime ahead and that you don’t really need to save money now, while things are tight and you are struggling to get going. But that’s a myth. The truth is you cannot afford to go one more day without a savings commitment for many reasons: You will want to retire. You do not want to feel forced into debt when something unexpected happens. You do not want to get used to spending all that you have. You want to create a sense of security and peace in your marriage.
Counter: Think of 10 percent of your net income as a mandatory savings obligation, just like your rent or mortgage payment. Pay it to yourselves without fail starting right now, if not sooner.
Myth: Some money issues are best kept private. Whether it’s the $40 pedicure you launder through your grocery tab using the convenient cash-back feature, the $80 cash you collected from your lunch buddies when you put the whole tab on your credit card or that secret credit card account, keeping money secrets from your spouse is not good for your marriage. You might be able to pull off financial infidelity for a while, but eventually it will come back to bite you.
Counter: Start out with a commitment to full disclosure and total honesty. That will build something into your marriage that money cannot buy: trust.
Myth: Everything will be fine as soon as we make more money. It does make sense that if you are struggling now, you won’t be once you get a big raise, finish school, get your grandmother’s inheritance or win the lottery. The truth is that more money will never be enough until you learn how to manage well the money you already have.
Counter: Make the necessary adjustments now to live beneath your means. That will ensure that when more money comes into your lives, you’ll know exactly how to take care of it.
Myth: It’s too late. No matter how long you’ve been married or how difficult your situation may appear, it’s not too late. It will take longer and be more challenging, but you can turn your situation around. Two people committed to reaching a single goal is a powerful force.
Counter: Decide right now that you are going to do whatever it takes to debt-proof your marriage.