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Getting Married? Get Your Finances Together!

Aug 17, 2007
Here's a puzzle. I spoke to several couples about the 'money' side of marriage, and naturally, got a varied picture, But., surprise surprise, in spite of the fact that most were modern, progressive couples, and considering this is supposed to be the age of materialism and go-getting pushiness, it amazed me to find that money was the one thing most newly weds or veterans were a little delicate about!

Ram, a senior advertising executive, says that although both he and his wife work, they have separate accounts, and in actual fact neither knows exactly what the other earns! And it isn't an issue either. Both earn more than their joint needs require, so after contributing for the home, each gets to keep their own portion, to spend or save, as they please.

Oorna, a creative person in an ad agency says almost the same - she and her husband both contribute. Even for their wedding, while the parents took care of the traditional stuff, the couple spent on their little extras - the honeymoon, doing up the apartment, other touches.

Sumathi, married nearly 10 years, says that although she also works, her husband is still very traditional and 'male' about carrying the financial burdens. He insists on paying for all essentials and she is free to spend on an old parent, a piece of art, gifts, new furnishings or other optionals.

Mathew is quite clear that whatever he earns must be handed over to his wife who is the saving savvy person and who makes the money go a long way, spending wisely and well!

In very many cases, the initial concept of saving or investment comes from a parental source - bonds, shares, a deposit etc, invested by a parent for the young couple. Most couples take a little time to get around to deciding what to invest in, what to save for and how.

But most people agree on a few fundamentals:

SAVE FROM DAY ONE!
This is a golden rule, however you choose to follow it. Save a part of your wedding gift money. Save a part of your salary. Save up dividends from investments or matured investments, whatever you do, start saving from the very beginning. Money problems put undue stress on any relationship, while comfort and a little spending power go a really long way in creating happiness.

AGREE ON SPENDING PRIORITIES.
Very important! If you believe that it is important to scrimp and save and somehow go on vacation every year but your spouse believes that day-to-day comforts and luxuries are far more important you already have the makings of discord and an empty bank account!! Have a few friendly but serious talks on priorities. Either save independently for your top-of-the-list items or at least compromise and come to some kind of agreement - some amount of monthly comforts and a bit in the kitty towards the holiday!

BUILD UP YOUR SAFETY NET.
Most young people are very tuned in to insurance and the security it brings. Be sure to get a good medical insurance policy as well as some home protection scheme if you own your home. Life insurance, especially if there is a sole provider, is a MUST. Since all these help with your taxes, they are money well spent and buy you enormous peace of mind.

KEEP A SPECULATION/EXTRAVAGANCE ALLOWANCE
If both or either of you has that slightly speculative streak, you CAN indulge it without wrecking the family! Keep aside a little for that risky little scheme or that indulgence , a little bit of risk makes life fun only if the price is not high.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Depending on how old you are, what your income is, whether you are a single-or double-income couple, you need to make some very concrete plans. Children, education, holidays, buying a home, being prepared for a crisis, .make yourself a schedule of needs and then seek the advice of a good money-mind. You may want to invest in Mutual Funds, Stocks and Shares, property or even a small venture. Never lose sight of your goal and do not hesitate to change your tactics if your goals are not being met.

BUY A HOME.
With today's housing loans being much friendlier than before, buying a home comes very high on many couples' priority list. There really is nothing like it in any case!! Having to spend on, and do up someone else's home doesn't make much long - term sense unless you are on a transferable job or haven't decided where to put down roots. Some people buy a place to rent, and some to live. It beats being given marching orders by a long line of landlords!!

FACTOR IN YOUR PARENTS
Your parents play a huge role in your finances. Some contribute, through gifts, property, investments, etc and help the couple out substantially. Others are not so lucky and in fact, need to provide for aging and often ailing parents. Be aware of this so that if and when the mantle should fall on your shoulders you are neither unprepared nor resentful of fulfilling a duty that is still very sacred to us Indians.

WATCH OUT FOR THE PITFALLS!
When does a 'yours and mine' situation arise, where a couple start disagreeing over money and how it is shared, spent, saved or earned ? I believe a failure to communicate each other's money needs and ideas leads to this. NEVER take each other's earnings for granted. NEVER fail to thank each other, especially when one earns more and carries a heavy burden, the other should show appreciation. Usually when one person is extravagant, selfish or irresponsible with money the other becomes paranoid and tight fisted, t's only natural. So be careful how you spend. Be thoughtful of each other's earnings. Above all, with some understanding and careful planning you can enjoy keeping money as your slave and not your master!
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