Melinda always jokes about how long it took for me to pop the question. And while I agree that it took longer than most engagements, I don’t regret waiting. When I met Melinda, I was a broke college student living off of meal plans and prayers. My financial situation must have showed on my face because the first thing Melinda gave me was a book to read titled, “Generation Debt”. My first reaction was…
But, instead, I decided to take the book and give it a read. Well about that. I have to be honest, the reading part never happened. I was in college, I didn’t have time to leisurely read, yet looking back I can see how that experience was a defining moment for our relationship. See, Melinda has two college degrees. One in Business Administration and the other in Business Management with a concentration in Financial Services. I, on the other hand, purposely avoided anything finance and math-related. Algebra? Pass me by. Profit and Loss Statements? Pass me by. Give me American Literature, all day, every day.
But that was college…
As our relationship developed, I realized that we were getting very serious. I graduated from college and started building my career- one step at a time. Now I wish I could say that I immediately saw the value in financial literacy and made all of the best financial decisions, but I’d be lying and Melinda would call me out. I didn’t “get” the importance of financial literacy until we experienced hardships that rattled us to our core. As a provider, I knew that I did not want that kind of life for my family. I also knew that one of Melinda’s favorite songs was… Yep, you guessed it….
So I had to get it together.
Okay, I’m kidding about that part, lol.
But seriously, I knew that I wanted to marry her but I wasn’t willing to do it until I could offer her some kind of financial comfort. I wanted the experience of providing the wedding of her dreams without creating debt, I wanted to take her into a jewelry store, have her pick out her ring and pay cash for it. I mean it would be the least I could do for all of the sacrifices we made throughout our relationship, right? All of that has been accomplished and now we’re married. I’m here to tell you that…
Financial literacy and planning should never lose its importance in your marriage
If anything, your commitment to increasing financial literacy and security should get stronger. I know that one of the best gifts I can ever give my wife and (one day, very soon) our children (Noah and Ava- yep, we have the names decided already) is financial security. And in order for us to have that, we have to know how to manage our finances effectively. We have to develop the spending and saving habits that will make that possible. We have to set financial goals, meet about them, assess them, change and/or refine them and make sure they’re achieved within the agreed upon timeframe. Sacrifices will still be made, but it’s a choice that we make now. We choose to sacrifice or wait on some things now, because we want to luxury of retiring comfortably. We choose to live modestly so we can ensure that our children have money for college.
I have now replaced those American Literature books with finance-related books, because I understand the value of money and want to learn how to use it more effectively. Collectively, we are intentional about building wealth and exposing ourselves to any opportunities to build our financial acumen.
If you’re in a serious relationship that could lead to marriage, start having conversations about your financial goals and priorities now. Don’t wait until hardships surface. Don’t wait until you’re wealthy, don’t wait until you get the joint account, start educating yourself on how to manage your finances effectively. I can tell you that it’s not how much money you all have that counts, it’s about how you manage it. You will manage $5.00 the same as you would manage $500,000- it’s all about your mindset.
Believe it or not, the number one reason for divorce in the United States is financial strain. People get married and fail to develop strategies for how they will manage their money, what happens next? They walk away from the courthouse broke and broken-hearted. That’s not a good combination but it’s completely preventable.
Here’s what has worked for us
- Google Drive – We house all of our budgets, financial plans and goals in Google Drive. It’s user-friendly, robust yet simple and we can access it through an app on our phones or from our laptops no matter where we are in the world.
- Meeting Regularly to Discuss Our Finances – It’s one thing to set financial goals, but you cannot stop there. You have to make time to meet regularly to track and measure your progress. This also allows you to identify when certain goals are achieved so you can celebrate!
- Writing the Vision and Making it Plain – Most people start with a financial goal of just paying their bills on time, period. That’s a start. But what is your big vision for your finances? Do you want to build wealth? Leave assets behind for your children? Save money for your children’s college expenses? Retire early? In order to get this out of your head, you have to write down the big vision. I have certain financial goals, Melinda has certain financial goals. We write our visions down and then we talk about them. The end result is a collective vision that incorporates both of our goals.
- Setting our Agreements – When you get married, your money isn’t just your money anymore. You are a team. So it’s important to have certain rules regarding the family’s finances. Here are some of our agreements:
- We agree that all family finance meetings must include a beverage of choice that may include but are not limited to the following: hot chocolate, wine, hot apple cider, coffee or tea.
- We agree that we will try not to speak in definitives (I’m going to do this, we’re going to do that) and instead we will ask for each other’s input or make suggestions.
- We agree that as far as the budget is concerned, if it isn’t a line item on the budget, it doesn’t need to take money out of our accounts.
- We agree not to spend more than $20 without having paid all budgeted bills first.
We’re not financial experts
As we conclude this post, please understand that we’re learning every day. We’re not financial planners, we’re not economists, we’re just two people with a goal of living responsibly and building wealth for our family. What we’re suggesting may not work for your family. You may identify a better system- that’s cool. Please come back on this post and share it! We can learn from each other! Honestly, if you walk away from this post with a few takeaways and some chuckles, our objective has been fulfilled!