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Money & Marriage

Money and Marriage: What to Expect at Each Stage

When you first get engaged or married, everything seems perfect. You can’t imagine anything ever going wrong. It’s all red roses and fancy chocolate, right?

But if you’re like most couples, tension and stress eventually finds its way into your marriage. And a lot of times, that stress comes from money. Maybe you don’t have enough, or maybe the two of you can’t agree on how to spend the little that you have.

No matter what stage your marriage is in, you need to be aware of potential stumbling blocks with money. Because, as you continue to grow your income, that doesn’t mean you won’t have issues. Here’s some thoughts on what to prepare for in every stage of marriage:

When You’re Dating and Engaged:

Whether it’s eating out more often (no kids means more free time, right?) or catching a weekly movie, you’ll be tempted to spend a good bit of money when you’re early in your relationship. Of course, there’s also the engagement ring, and maybe the photos that go with it. And, of course, let’s not forget the wedding itself! According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding is more than $30,000. Wow.(1)

The important thing at this stage—when you’re engaged—is to just make sure you’re both on the same page on how to manage your money. If you enter marriage with two different views on money, then your honeymoon phase may end a little quicker than you’d like.

When You’re a Newlywed:

This is the first time you’ll combine your incomes. That’s awesome, right? And, finally, you’re not paying for two apartments or homes. You don’t have two utility bills. Plus, you might get some insurance and tax breaks because you’re not paying individually on auto insurance and home insurance anymore.

Soon after, you might look into buying a new home—assuming you’re in good financial shape and out of debt. Don’t take out a huge mortgage you can’t afford. You’ll also have a temptation to fill up your entire house with brand-new appliances and furniture and all kinds of bright and shiny stuff. Then there are expenses like lawn care, a mower if you’re doing it yourself, HOA fees, trash pickup and other minor repairs and upkeep that insurance doesn’t cover.

During this stage, just make sure you’re making budget meetings a monthly routine with your spouse. That way, you can both honestly assess each other’s spending—and whether expenses like lawn upkeep are something you want to keep doing.

When You Have Kids:

Well, first, it’s just a matter of getting all the necessities you’ll need for the little one. There’s the doctor’s visits and the delivery itself. Oh yeah, and believe me—a lot of your budget will be going toward diapers . . . and diapers . . . and did I mention diapers?

As the kids get older, you have the usuals—the food and clothing budget will grow. At some point, a car might be involved. And there’s gas that goes with that. You get the idea.

When your kids get old enough, make sure they understand the basics of budgeting and money. Give them opportunities to give, save and spend based on money they earn from a commission (not an allowance). In other words, you’re paying them for doing regular chores around the house. They have to work for the money! As they get older, they’ll begin to understand the value of a hard-earned dollar—setting them up for success and the ability to go to school without loans!

When You’re an Empty Nester:

Now’s the time you might be downgrading the home, or not. Maybe add that screened-in porch you’ve always wanted. If you’ve been making a plan for your money all along, then you might be able to return to those early days when you ate out twice a week. Vacations? Plenty of time for those as well, right?

By now, hopefully you’re getting close to paying off the mortgage if you haven’t already, and retirement is almost here! This is when you’re really close to seeing all your hard work come to fruition. And, before long, you’re going to be a grandparent, I bet. Just make sure you don’t go and spend $100 a month on LEGOs. Well, I guess that’s okay if it’s in the budget.

When You’re Retired:

The average social security check in 2016 was $1,360.(2) Just do a little quick math and you’ll realize that isn’t much to live on. So by now, I hope you’ve been putting away money in your 401(k) or Roth, with a nice emergency fund in place. Because now is the time to live and give like no one else! You can enjoy your life while helping others enjoy theirs—and isn’t that what this all comes down to in the first place?

Just make sure you’re living on a reasonable income based on the total amount you have in retirement. If you live until 90, you don’t want to blow through everything by the time you’re 75. Do the math and make a plan for what works for you.

Every stage of marriage and life will have its own share of pros and cons. The important thing is you are prepared and ready for each stage. Have a plan. Make sure you’re in control of your money instead of letting it (or the lack of it) dictate your life.

If you do that, there’s a good chance you’ll be just as happy in your retirement years as you were during the newlywed years. And who doesn’t want that for their marriage?

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