It seems that I’m going to a lot of weddings lately. It must be something about my age. I really enjoy them – the happy couples and hundreds of happy friends and family members supporting them as they began their new lives.
I really enjoy the festivities and the joy and happiness of everyone involved. But I also find myself looking at the event from the eye of a financial planner. I realize that the habits these couples establish in the next few years will be very important in determining their future financial lives. I want to give them all some advice, so I created a list seven practical hints that every newly-wed couple should know. I would like to share that list with you.
1. Get really clear on your goals. Talk to each other. Dream. Dream big – and share your dreams with each other. Spend a lot of time talking about what you really want out of life – for yourself, for each other and for the children that you may bring into your family.
2. Learn to live within your means. You will know that you are doing this if you are not accumulating bad debt and if you are saving 10% of all of your income. Buy only what you can afford. You may have to buy used furniture or shop at the Good Will store. You may have to skip cable TV. You may have to drive that old car for a while. Establishing this habit will be one of the best things you ever do. Start now. If you want to spend more money, find a way to earn more money. It’s as simple as that.
3. Invest intelligently. As you save money begin investing that money. Use all tax breaks and free money available to you. Start IRAs, participate in employer-sponsored 401k’s, 403b’s or other financial plans that can benefit you.
4. Establish emergency funds. Emergencies and surprise expenses will come up. If you don’t have money to pay for them, you will have to borrow money – which is not a good idea.
5. Be grateful for what you have. Gratitude has been proven time and time again to be a powerful tool to more fully enjoy life. Spend some time every day being thankful for the blessings you have already received – each other, health, intelligence, family, friends and opportunity at a minimum.
6. Take a financial class or spend an hour with a financial planner to learn the basics.
7. Practice philanthropy. There is always someone more in need than you. Find a way to help others – and your lives will become richer.
Following these simple rules can make a huge difference in the rest of your lives.