How to set financial priorities when you're just married
If you’re just starting out, setting some basic financial priorities can help you to create the happy life you dream of having with your spouse. Life happens quickly. Preparing early pays big dividends.
Life may never seem so full of potential as on your wedding day. Your wedding celebrations and honeymoon quickly transition to a new normal filled with struggles, remarkably similar to the challenges you had before you were married. Taking the time to set financial priorities can help to ensure a long and happy marriage.
Consider the following financial priorities and discuss them with your spouse:
Buy a home
If your education is complete, your first priority should be to get into a home. Owning a home, staying in it for a long time, and raising a family there will likely have a greater influence on your children than any other decision you will make, as parents. Over the long term, home ownership tends to strengthen families financially, as well. Making this your top priority is a good way to launch your lives together.
Save for your children’s college
If this is a first marriage for both of you, chances are there are no children involved. You may think it is premature to start saving for college. It’s not. If you hope to have children someday, do yourself a favor and start saving for college now. By saving earlier, you radically reduce the pressure to save later. Eighteen years is not a long time to save for college; by starting now, you may get 25 or even 30 years of saving done before the youngest children start college.
Save for retirement
If you are in your twenties, with about forty years before retirement, you have an extraordinary opportunity to start putting money away for retirement. One dollar you save today will likely become $15 by the time you retire. If you contribute a dollar ten years from now, that dollar will become just $7.61 when you retire. If you wait 20 years and contribute a dollar it won’t quite become $4. If you wait until you’re in your mid-50s, just 10 years before retirement to contribute $1, it will become a mere $1.97 in ten years. Start saving now for retirement, even if it is only in modest amounts.
Save for a rainy day
It will rain. A major appliance will break. Someone will need surgery. The car will need a new transmission. You or your spouse will be out of work. Don’t worry; something will go wrong. One day it would be nice to have a full year’s expenses in savings as a cushion against almost any foreseeable disaster. For now, work on getting $2,500 set aside specifically for a rainy day. That emergency cushion can turn the vast majority of life’s challenges into financial nuisances. When you use the rainy day fund, be sure to replenish it.
If you have a car payment now, commit to each other that it will be the last. When the car is paid for, keep making the payment into your savings account. Drive the car as long as possible and then use your savings to buy a replacement. Keep saving for the next car.
If you focus on these priorities — in the order presented — you’ll find that you’ll empower your lives with a combination of discipline and dividends that will make your lives together as happy as you hope.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.