The other day, I was talking to an elderly man and he shared how his daughter, to be married soon, discussed money with her fiancé recently — what was he doing with his money, what she intended to do with hers and how she would like the money to be managed jointly, post marriage.
I told him we never did that and how I think she is so correct to be doing it at the right time. And he agreed, that though initially he was skeptical of how things will unfold, now he thinks she took a right step.
From father’s point of view, his daughter could at least see how the man reacts to discussing money, which will anyway be an inevitable discussion sometime in their marriage. He knew it, because he had raised his daughter to be independent and speak her mind. And he was proud he raised her right.
The first thing to do
You know what most parents think is the first thing we should do as a couple. I am sure many of you must have experienced their urgency to send you off to bedroom right from the first night of marriage. And this continues till there is a physical output in sight.
Since parents have that covered, I will talk about something I think couples should do. I will leave your preference decide the order — to place it in first rank or second,. But most definitely there is no third most important thing. In fact, if you ask me, I think this is a very important pre-marriage talk.
If both of you are working
You have to decide to save one salary, to not touch it at all. You have to say it out loud, agree to it, implement it from very next month, without exception. It just has to be one of the many changes in lifestyle that you will do as married working couple. Starting this at the beginning of the marriage will help you avoid so many unnecessary arguments later on.
And let me tell you it is not easy. Here’s what happens.
There was a time when M’s salary would run the house and my money was saved. I, in my own mind, started thinking it is all my savings, not ours. It was irrational, off-course. But that is how mind works.
Then we divided the expenses, say rent and bills from M’s account and monthly expenses from my account. This was even more disastrous! We both had access to our money, we both were paying bills and therefore there was no control on expenses (because there was always so much money we had access to.)
Saving one salary ensures you learn to live in a way that supports investing, not excuse it. It also ensure both of you are contributing to your financial life.
To control your mind from working like mine, make sure to transfer the savings in a joint account and automate individual or joint investments from that account. You can divide and invest equally or for all practical minded people out there, and nothing wrong in that, here’s the fair way of doing it :
A’s Salary : 75000
B’s Salary : 100000
Household expense : 75000
Per person Share : 75000/2 = 37500
B’s Salary transferred to Joint account
Now, Individual savings = Individual Salary — Per person expenses
A’s Saving : 75000–37500 = 37500
B’s savings : 100000–37500 = 62500
(For everyone questioning the morality, this will be much easier to manage in case of separation. The need to stay practical can arise from bad experience in past relationship, having seen a separation in family or just taxation purposes. We never know, so let us stay away from judgements here.)
The mode of saving and investing may differ, something more creative than a joint account may be. But your savings are covered. This also takes care of one other thing. If any or both of you are bad with money, it does not let you screw up things.
I have also realised that saving one salary completely sometimes results in more savings as against individual account savings.
If one of you is working
Dear earning member, please take a term insurance, immediately.
Next, you have to decide a monthly pocket-money for the other person and transfer it to their account, for which they have an ATM and you don’t have any access to their transactions — net banking or otherwise.
I have seen couples managing all expenses from the same account. Here’s a common problem in such an arrangement, the dependent member is always asking for money and reporting the expenses to the earning member. Or the arrangement is such that the earning member knows about every single expense.
Now some may think what’s wrong in that. Here’s what I found wrong in this.
Apart from the fact that the home-maker may feel extremely claustrophobic and controlled, the earning member can forget receiving a surprise gift, ever. Because you have not left any scope for a surprise! Also, it can be suffocating for the dependent member to control impulse purchases all the time. To ask before gifting anything to their parents, siblings, friends etc.
And you may think money is important, but I can assure you surprises and gifts are even more precious.
How do I know this so deep? Well, sailed this boat as well!
I was claustrophobic when M was earning and I was not. M was subjected to same treatment when I was earning and he was not. And gifts? It was a pain when he would ask me money so he could gift me something! He knew I loved gifts but I had left him with no other option or money!
Some may still advocate the common account arrangement, each to their own. But I surely could not compromise on gifts and surprises and the mental peace.
Not the whole universe
I will not cover the cases where none of you are working. I have been down that path (as well!) and I do not endorse it, no matter what the situation. There is a certain way we managed our money in that phase. But as adults, I think we have to sustain ourselves and make sure as couple, we are only depending on each other (if at all) and no one else, not even the family.
Then there is another school of thought — my money is my money, none of your money! Each to their own again, but I don’t see how that helps a marriage. Living with another human is the most difficult task, you need things that bind you together, not what lets you pack up easily and go free. And no, love alone does not make the cut. It is THE most important thing, but when love is struggling, and it will, you need other things to hold it for you till you get hold of yourself, clear your head and learn to fall in love, with the same person, again and again.
How important is it
This can be a tough talk, specially considering how as a society, money talk before marriage is a big no-no. Also, as newly married people, you want to please the other person, show that you care and that money will never come in between your relationship.
Here’s a guarantee I can give you, sooner or later you will be discussing money because it will start affecting your relationship, unless you have an inheritance strong enough to not bother about money for anything or a rocking job that you love and where you are loved equally.
And let me give out a secret, something I have come to realise. Money talk is a litmus test in marriages. A right partner will never mind money discussions. They always understand where you are coming from, they will always be willing to discuss and come to a common understanding because a right partner wants you to be happy. And if money is bothering you, never mind you want more of it or none of it, they want to set it straight to see you happy.
Marriage is not about those four lovely days, it is about the next forty years at least and you really don’t want money to disturb your harmony. Get it done with at the start, so you can concentrate on other more important things in marriage.
Like the ones our parents (passively) recommend on the first night.
Now tell me what you think — Did I get it right ? Am I quite there?