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Since financial problems are one of the leading contributors toward divorce, an engaged couple would be wise to take preemptive action. The bride and groom can do so by establishing financial policies and practices that will be observed within their future marriage. There are three primary areas of discussion regarding finances within marriage:
1. Money Management
Couples should work together to develop a workable budget that they will follow. Even couples with minimal income can and should have a budget. This budget ought to reflect all expected income and expenses while being careful not to overlook savings, charitable giving, and an emergency fund.
Another discussion in the area of money management would address who will handle the finances within the marriage. Will it be the bride, the groom, or both? Will the bride and groom maintain separate bank accounts or will they have a joint account?
What standard of living do the bride and groom expect to have? This will greatly affect where their money goes. Many young couples choose to live with parents at first in order to save money, but others find this arrangement stressful on their relationship. If the couple desires to own a home, what size? How much money are they ready and able to devote to home ownership? Are the bride and groom willing to make compromises in order to balance a budget and attain financial health?
2. Occupational Goals
The bride and groom may choose to pursue individual careers. What will happen when these careers are in conflict? If one spouse is offered a promotion that will require relocation, is that doable for the other spouse? How will it affect the career of that spouse? How will it impact the marriage, and what influence will it have on any potential children? Will the financial benefit be worth the relational costs?
Perhaps the bride and groom will choose to live on a single income. Many marriages today are dependent on both spouses earning money, so the decision to live off one income will require personal and financial sacrifices.
The bride and groom may also wish to establish ground rules for the amount of time and attention each will devote to work. Couples may choose to limit the number of hours each will spend at work, or how many evenings of the week can be occupied by work. The bride and groom will need to negotiate a balance that can satisfy their occupational goals while preserving the health of their marriage relationship.
3. Life Plans
Brides and grooms should discuss plans for retirement. This may seem premature to young couples in particular, but it is an important discussion. The expected age of retirement and desired standard of living will affect how finances are managed from the very beginning of their marriage.
Does either spouse have plans to further his or her education? If so, when? The couple will need to plan ahead to make sure the finances are available for that spouse to attain his or her goals.
How about children? Children are a blessing and can bring great joy, but there are also financial considerations. Resources will be required to feed and clothe the children. Plus, there will be additional costs for education, childcare, and a variety of other needs.
Will travel be a priority for the couple? If so, extra funds will need to be directed toward travel preparation and costs. The amount will be determined by the frequency of travel and the desired locations and activities.
Every engaged couple should discuss how finances are going to be handled within the context of their future marriage. By beginning these discussions early and establishing sound financial policies, the bride and groom can limit the severity of financial complications and disagreements after the wedding.