As another summer week draws to a close and I enjoy the wonderful afternoon sun on my patio my thoughts turn to this coming weekend and another wedding that I plan to attend. I'm excited to have the privilege to witness yet another blissful, beautiful couple launch a new life together. Watching their love and joy is infectious and inspiring at the same time.
Of course, being in my line of work as a credit coach -- and feeling a little motherly -- it's impossible for my thoughts to avoid the latest numbers from Knot.com that the average wedding cost $30,000, and 80 percent of couples will have to foot the bill themselves. Add to that, what the Wedding Report said that regarding credit, one in three couples covered wedding expenses with a credit card, 7 percent got a new credit card for wedding expenses and 9 percent took out a loan. Oh my! Certainly not the wedding present I would wish for them.
So, you may ask, how would I advise this young couple if they were sitting here with me now on the patio sipping ice tea? I would start by asking them these three questions:
1. How compatible is your credit?
How we handle our finances and our credit can say a great deal about how mature we are, financially and in life. You probably want to avoid getting into a lifelong (marriage) commitment with someone you are not compatible with on a maturity level or credit level, for that matter. Also, keep in mind that there are so many opportunities now tied to our credit -- from insurance to employment -- that it's as important as ever to be mindful with your credit. Take the time before you are married to access your credit reports and discuss and share them together. This process builds trust and openness, two great additions to any marriage.
2. Have you planned how you as a couple will handle debt and credit?
It's a good chance that you will both enter the marriage with some debt , so before you are married, discuss how you both view the current debt, future debt, and create a plan of how you will together handle your credit. My words of advice? Simply put, remember that even though you are married you will each have your own credit score so reduce your household risk by keeping debts separate and avoid co-signing on any loans together (except your mortgage).
3. Do you have a plan to work on your finances together?
Financial issues are classically one of the most often fought about topics in marriage. So even before your marriage begins, make a plan to work on your family finances together. What can you do if you discover your financial and credit philosophies are not exactly compatible? The good news is that there is hope, you can build compatibility by creating goals together and creating steps together to achieve those financial and credit goals, whether it's buying a home or paying off student loan debt. Agree on your goals and create a plan together. Remember that it's natural for one person to be more interested in doing the family finances and that's fine. Let that person actually implement the plans that you work on together. The most important piece to ensure marriage longevity is that couples make financial decisions together.
So, let's raise our glasses in cheer to happy and (financially) healthy marriages for all of you planning to wed this summer!