by Tyrease Dixon
I have been married for almost seven years to my best friend and high school sweetheart. I love my husband dearly. He’s a wonderful provider and an amazing father. I’m so glad I said, “I DO!” However, our tidy romance wasn’t always smooth sailing.
He proposed on July 31, 2003, and we settled on July of the following year for our impending nuptials. After he popped the question and my left hand adjusted to the new addition, we began looking at our ability to fund our dream wedding and ultimately our new life together. A month into the engagement, we sat down in my kitchen to discuss our finances.
I don’t mind telling you that my fiancÃ© thought he was doing big things. He had bought his first home, was gainfully employed, and had $500 in the bank. He even had his adult brother, sister, and father move in. While we earned roughly the same salary, I am a saver and had a $10,000 emergency fund in place. I could not understand how we made the same amount, yet he had so little saved.
I pulled out a white board and asked him to list his income and expenses. It became clear that he was running his household like the federal government ““ through deficit spending! There was such a big hole each month; I had no idea how he was surviving.
Right then, I drew a line in the sand, “I am not paying for this wedding by myself!” I refused to accumulate debt to fund our wedding. Furthermore, I was not interested in subsidizing three, able-bodied adults. We needed to make some changes immediately. I offered to let him handle it. Otherwise, I would have been happy to make the changes for him. Surprisingly, he didn’t argue with the facts once presented in black and white. The white board and my insistence on creating a fiscally sound foundation for our marriage helped persuade him to make the adjustments.
He quickly devised a plan to cash flow the wedding that did not involve overtime. He called a family meeting, sat them down at his kitchen table, and pulled out the white board. It listed his monthly income and all monthly expenses. Next he told everyone that he could no longer fund all household expenses by himself. They resisted, complained bitterly, and frankly did not like this new plan one bit. My future brother-in-law complained loudest about my imposition on their living arrangement. Ruffled feathers aside, once everyone began to contribute to the household expenses, my fiancÃ© was able to save, live within his means, and contribute equally to our wedding.
Before you say, “I do”, consider the following tips to create a solid financial foundation for your marriage:
1. Schedule a kitchen table review. Initiate this conversation immediately after the proposal excitement settles. Be boldly honest about your current financial lives, past decisions, and future goals. Put every detail in black and white. White boards are optional!
2. Create a realistic wedding budget. Plan a wedding that fits your financial ability. The average cost of weddings today is $20,000. Don’t start your new life further in debt to impress friends and family over a one-day celebration.
3. Attend premarital counseling. Most of us plan to. However, seek counseling that includes a financial management component.
4. Merge only after marriage. Until you both say, “I do,” keep your financial affairs separate. Unfortunately, every proposal does not end happily ever after.
5. Stand your financial ground. Be willing to postpone or ultimately call off the wedding if your fiancÃ© is resistant to transforming unhealthy financial habits. While bad habits may not change overnight, an unwillingness to improve is a financial red flag.
Seven years later the white board still makes us laugh. He will tell anyone that the hardest part was facing a reality that he was in bad financial shape. The good news is when you know better, you can definitely do better.
Tyrease Dixon is a financial coach and co-founder of the Debt Free Divas. The Debt Free Divas help men and women overcome debt and begin a path towards building wealth. Catch her on the Midday Money Show, every Thursday @ 11:30 a.m. CT, bringing personal finance back in style.