1Q2018  |  All Ages

Money and Marriage

According to Investopedia1 one of the top reasons why couples have disagreements is due to… MONEY!  Managing your money is hard enough when it’s for yourself, but when you add another person to the mix with different spending habits, it can be challenging to say the least.  I have been happily married for almost 10 years and can share some helpful insights I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Wedding Planning

With spring season officially here, it is peak wedding season.  One of the first financial challenges as a couple is planning for a wedding.  I am sure we’ve all heard we can’t plan true love, though when it comes to planning for a wedding the more time you have to plan, the better.  According to surveys taken by TheKnot.com2, the national average cost of a wedding in 2016 was $35,329.  Planning for a wedding is like buying a car or can be as much as someone’s annual salary.  So, what do you do?

  • Just like any other financial goal, you will want to start saving as much as you can as early as you can. Also consider cutting back on unnecessary day-to-day expenses – if you can make it a habit to start saving money for the big day, it all adds up.  I hate to use the proverbial coffee example, though with Starbucks being so popular right now it’s the first thing that comes to mind.  Think about it, if you can drink your own coffee at home and save $4 on coffee per day for 5 days, that adds up to $20. For 52 weeks, you can save about $1040 per year.  Think about what that can get you for your wedding – invitations maybe, party favors, or potentially a cake.  Again, every little bit counts and can be added to your wedding expenses.
  • When it comes to planning for your wedding, prioritize what’s important to you. In my family, an open bar and good music was our priority.  So, when my wife and I got married, we went easy on the food and cake, but pumped up the volume, hired a great DJ and band, and kept the bottles coming, literally…  My point is we put those things as a priority and were modest about other things.  For that reason, it is recommended to create a list of things which are important to you and your future spouse.  This will give you both the opportunity to make the hard decisions easier from a financial standpoint.
  • Most importantly while getting ready for your wedding, set a financial plan for your big day by tracking all of the items and services you purchased. A good practice to get into is to review your wedding’s spending report on a regular basis, and make sure you stay on track.  Always keep in mind not to overspend on items which are not necessary, or items that will later affect your financial situation.
  1. Who pays for what?

For those who just got married or have been married, have you determined which person in the relationship pays for certain things?  For example, what happens when you go out to eat? Will one of you always pay for the meal? Will you split the meal, or just pay separately?  When it comes to bills, utilities, mortgage, rent, and necessary expenses, who will pay the bills?  According to Nerd Wallet3, we are finding out that both men and women are paying for these expenses, it’s not just one-sided. Though, how should you split it?  As always, there is no one solution, though there are a few common strategies I have seen couples experiment with.

  • Some couples will open up a joint checking and savings account. They will deposit most of their money in checking to pay for all of their necessary monthly expenses, then a portion would go into savings for the unexpected family or household emergencies.  This is a great start, though what happens if you each want something for yourself? What do you do then?In a real-world example, my wife might want to buy some fancy shoes and I may want the latest and greatest new tech gadget.  Do we ask each other if we can buy it?  Imagine how that conversation will go every time.  Ideally this would not be the case, but understandably we can’t have it all.  The answer to avoiding an argument is setting up an allowance for each other.  You probably think of an allowance as something a child would get, and I am sure you never thought an allowance would save your marriage.  Though, if we both set aside a discussed allowance every pay period we can each save up for the big-ticket items we want.  So, she can purchase her shoes and I can buy my gadgets when we have enough saved.  This way there is no arguing about who bought what or who didn’t get something.
  • As more and more households have couples who bring home equal income, it is not uncommon for some couples to split everything fifty-fifty. I have seen this approach commonly with couples who have remarried, but this can work in other situations, as well.
  • Another approach for couples who might have one main bread winner, but both are bringing in income, is splitting expenses unevenly. For example, the main bread winner may pay the rent or mortgage and the other might pay the electric bill and/or water bill.  This way both feel they are contributing to the household even though there might be an unequal split.

The best way to find which solution will work for you is to sit down and start a joint spending report.  Both can review what monthly expenses need to get paid, as well as a plan on how to pay for those expenses.  As life gets busy, many of us will forget to track our spending report, but preferably, reviewing your spending report on a monthly basis would be something done by both of you to better your financial situation.

  1. Beneficiaries

When you add or delete family members, something to keep top of mind is your beneficiaries.  As a couple it is a good idea to make sure you have beneficiaries updated in your bank accounts, retirement plans, insurance policies, etc.  According to American Association of Individual Investors4, the number one mistake people make with beneficiaries is not naming one.  Many tend to forget this aspect of their financial picture or just avoid the conversation, which could be troublesome if something unexpected happens.

One example which comes to mind, is when my colleague was assisting a wife who just lost her husband.  Being the main bread winner, her husband took care of the finances and had several bank and retirement accounts without a beneficiary listed.  Since he passed away unexpectedly, the wife did not have immediate access to those accounts to pay for funeral or family expenses, although there was money to cover these expenses.  In order for the wife to receive the money, she had to go to probate court and provide several items of documents and proof showing she was the rightful owner of the money her husband left behind.  After a handful of months going through this process, she was able to receive the money her husband had in his accounts.  On the other hand, if she would have been listed as the beneficiary of these accounts, she would have had access to the money much quicker to pay for those unexpected expenses.

Review your beneficiaries and have the discussion with your spouse on what to do if something unexpectedly happens.  I understand there could be some complex situations and the goal here is not to provide legal advice, but to make sure this topic does not get overlooked.  In a time of need, it can save loved ones weeks or months of hassle if everything is in good order.

The most important part of all of this is to talk about these topics as early as you can to help eliminate any surprises. Maybe you’ll share this article or one that is similar to get them to think about this topic. The more engaged couples are with their finances, the better prepared they will be to meet their financial goals or plan for unexpected events.  Even when you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, working with a financial advisor or expert to help work through these challenges is always a good idea.

Marco Melero C(k)P®, AIF®
Multicultural Education Strategist
[email protected]


  1. Investopedia, “The No. 1 Reason Why Couples Fight”, Accessed April 28, 2018.
  2. com, “The National Average Cost of a Wedding Hits $35,329”, Accessed April 28, 2018.
  3. Nerd Wallet, “Who Pays? NerdWallet Study Finds Gender Roles Remain Strong Among Couples”, September 2014.
  4. American Association of Individual Investors, “Avoid the Top 10 Mistakes Made With Beneficiary Designations”, November 2014.

Advisory services offered through Prime Capital Investment Advisors, LLC. (“PCIA”), a Registered Investment Adviser. PCIA: 6201 College Blvd., 7th Floor, Overland Park, KS 66211. PCIA doing business as Qualified Plan Advisors (“QPA”).

This commentary is provided for information purposes only and does not pertain to any security product or service and is not an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any product or service.

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