Commentary: Getting married? Don’t let inflation fray the knot
Looking to tie the knot? Congrats!
Looking to tie the knot? Congrats!
But here comes the reality check. As any married person will tell you, it is also when young adults start discovering how to build a life together.
So as unromantic as it may be, couples need to start thinking about their finances together — and to do so pretty soon after the joy and excitement of the marriage proposal dies down.
This would already be a challenging conversation in the best of times, but given the inflationary conditions the world is currently facing, it is even more important today.
Differing attitudes towards money can pose challenges to a relationship. What seems sensible and prudent to one may be seen as a lack of generosity by the other.
If you are used to lavishing each other with extravagant gifts, you might no longer find this desirable or sensible once you get married and have bills to pay.
And today, those bills are getting bigger. Not only will mortgages get more expensive, so will every little item a couple would require for their new household.
High inflation is on everyone's minds around the world.
In Singapore, core inflation, which excludes costs of private transport and accommodation, surged 5.1 per cent in August. It’s the highest rate since the 5.5 per cent notched in November 2008, and analysts expect prices to continue rising.
The latest study by Milieu Insights showed that the high cost of living in Singapore is a top concern for nine out of 10 Singaporeans.
Young couples faced with these challenges would need tips in order to manage their finances and plan for the future, and proper financial planning is definitely essential.
By having these discussions even before deciding to move in together, couples can make sure they are on the same page when it comes to how they spend, save, and invest their money — regardless of whether they choose to pool all their money, keep their finances separate, or do a combination of both.
INVEST TOWARDS YOUR FUTURE
You should list out your shared and individual life goals that will have a major financial impact.
These will determine the amount of money you and your spouse should invest or save, as well as inform your investment strategies, time horizons, and risk appetites.
Joint goals as a couple may include buying your dream home, the number of children you want, the type of lifestyle you want today and subsequently in retirement, or even how much you’d want to commit to the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement, if at all.
A good habit is to put aside a percentage of your monthly income for your goals. If you have a joint account for investments or savings, you can consider setting up automatic transfers to it from your salary or personal bank account.
Discuss with your life partner how you can best match your investments to your shared goals, then chart out an investment plan and establish an investment budget that both of you are comfortable with.
Investing your money and letting compound interest work its magic over time is a simple and powerful way to grow your household wealth.
For short-term goals that are two to three years away, investors may prefer relatively stable or low-risk investments such as bonds and money market funds.
For long-term goals such as retirement, you might consider passive investing, as well as having a mix of global stocks, bonds, and other types of assets to form a well-diversified portfolio, with a risk tolerance depending on how long you have till retirement.
UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER’S SPENDING PATTERNS
To start, have a frank, non-judgmental discussion about each other’s money beliefs, spending habits, any existing financial commitments, and financial history. These will tie into your financial goals and lifestyle expectations later.
A lavish wedding might make the celebration seem more romantic, but struggling to pay off debt from splashing out is an unpleasant situation to deal with.
Deciding how much to spend on your wedding and how to fund it will likely be the first major financial planning exercise for the both of you.
Expect this to test your communication and goal-setting skills as a team.
If you wait till after the wedding to talk about how to share the costs, it may lead to misaligned expectations and conflict. Never take on more debt than you can manage, and certainly never take on debt just to upkeep a lifestyle.
Another crucial question is how to organise your bank accounts. One option is to keep separate accounts for each person — this can prevent spender-versus-saver personality conflicts, but may also be a lot of work when keeping track of budgets and expenditures.
Alternatively, you may want to create joint accounts so that it is easier to keep track of the money, although a downside is that it could potentially lead to one person feeling resentment over the other’s spending habits.
Keep your finances organised and review them regularly to make sure things are on the right track. Both spouses should know the latest complete picture of the household finances.
You should aim to have a formal money conversation at least once a year about near-term or longer-term decisions such as the household budget, your next vacation, or retirement strategies.
PLAN FOR THE WORST
Given the uncertainty in life, it is also important to plan for the worst. With rising costs, it is unclear what effect this could have on our wallets in six months or a year from now.
If job loss is a concern, you should think through whether your company offers a severance package, whether you'll be entitled to health insurance continuation coverage, or how the loss of income will affect your immediate cash flow and ability to pay your bills.
It is also important to have emergency funds to help tide over any medical crisis that could occur or if one party loses his or her job.
The rule of thumb is to set aside at least three to six months of emergency savings to keep your lifestyle and investment plans on track.
For those who are self-employed, it would be good to have at least 12 months of emergency cash.
It’s easy to love together, but it calls for commitment to live together. Sound financial planning allows couples to spend wisely and to grow their wealth together as a stable union.
Sparks should still fly in the relationship — but out of love, not over money woes, even amid inflationary times.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jamie Lee is Head of Editorial and Content of Endowus, a digital wealth advisory platform in Singapore.