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Making financial decisions together

The first time you met your spouse-to-be, money was probably the least of your worries and getting to know him or her was at the forefront of your heart and mind.

And then a few months later you were ready to take one of the biggest leaps of faith in life – you got married and while you discussed the venue, the church, the priest, the cake, the dress, the décor, your mom’s tears … the last thing you thought of, if you thought of it all was your financial well-being and how, in money terms will you would be contributing to this new partnership.

However money and its implications are often at the heart of many arguments that couples have, in fact, according to Jeffrey Dew of the US National Marriage Project “couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 per cent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month” – that’s one out of three couples who will probably end up at court!

The best way to avoid becoming a statistic is to communicate – if you have been married for a while, then it’s not too late to start. Talking about money is never easy because it’s not just about rands and cents, it’s about values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours expressed through the way you or your spouse spend money.

As we build up to marriage week, take the time to sit down with your partner and talk about money and how together you can build a firm foundation for each other and your family. Follow these five short tips to start the conversation, and remember there are no right or wrong answers, only middle ground to be found and agreed on.

1. Earning:
This is the time to discuss whether or not you both plan to have a job, for how long and whether each of you (or one of you) wants a career. If you want kids, who will take care of them?

2. Spending:
You’ll want to decide what your priorities are: Whether you’ll spend money on private school, traveling outside of the country or taking care of aging parents. Is there a limit to personal spending at which point you check with each other before making the purchase?

3. Accounting:
How will you keep track of your bank accounts, the money that’s going in and out, and have an awareness of your overall net worth? Will you have a budget, and how will you divide the financial tasks in your relationship?

4. Saving:
How much savings do you each want to have on hand? Are you naturally “savers” or “spenders”? What goals are you saving for, and what do you want to spend that money on?

5. Building Wealth:
Finally, you’ll want to talk about how to make your money grow. How much will you need, collectively, to retire comfortably or put kids through college, and what will your mind-set be in terms of how you’ll spend your wealth?

While you are talking about finances, don’t forget to talk about life, dread disease and disability cover as well. These types of insurance will help you and your family manage the consequences of death, terminal illness or disability and provide them with opportunities for a better life.

In closing remember the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction” wise words for any couple to remember whether they are discussing décor for the wedding or retirement funds for the golden years.

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