Da-dum-da-dum. Da-dum-da-dum. This is it. Your knight in leather-free shoes has finally arrived. Your vegan dream angel has suddenly materialized and is even more amazing than you ever could have imagined. All is just as you envisioned it one day would be. Your wedding day is set; you’ve found the perfect vegetarian caterer. The only thing left to do is to reconcile your finances. Doesn’t sound romantic? Well, it can be!
Financial planning is part financial (duh!) and part planning. What can be more dreamy than discussing your hopes and dreams for the next 20, 30, 50 years with the same person? Though I am cynical by nature, I am not being sarcastic here. Prioritizing, setting goals, commingling assets can be titillating if done in an open, non-threatening way.
After working with couples for many years I have found that one person is typically the spender, the other the saver. While I joke that this is as it should be, I must admit that this dynamic does tend to work well, that is, when rules and guidelines are established. If both partners have trouble with delaying gratification (i.e. both are “born to shop”) saving for the future is admittedly tough. On the other hand, having two savers presents a different, yet potentially equally, daunting challenge. It may be even tougher having much of a social life if both parties are savers (imagine dining with this couple: “Who’s picking up the check?” Silence).
I recently heard a study about couples who had been happily married for many years. One of the alleged keys to success was the emphasis on defining roles. Traditional or otherwise, the happiest of couples were not fighting about dirty dishes and running out of soy milk on a daily basis; instead, they had general expectations about who was responsible for what, leaving them time to enjoy each other’s company rather than arguing about trivialities the whole time. This same mindset fares well with budgeting and saving as well.
Even if you are fortunate enough to have found a fellow vegan who shares many of the same belief systems as you, you may still find yourselves disagreeing on whether or not you should spare no expense when it comes to eating out as long as the produce is local and organic, or if you would rather eat kidney beans and rice every day for a month to save a few dollars each week. Couples argue over money, period.
As vegan folks we tend to deliberate over certain things more than most; throw finances into the mix and it can get ugly fast. For this reason, I am an advocate of keeping a separate account for the “little things” to curb arguments over minutia. This is not an attempt to be secretive and deceitful but rather an agreement that each of you is allowed to make minor purchases without having to consult with the other party.
Years ago I remember telling my brother about a service that allowed you to check the credit score of a potential suitor unbeknownst to him or her. Though he thought it would be, I quote, “hot” for someone to care enough to obtain this validation (or excuse to run!), not everyone I have informally polled agreed that this was a good way to screen dates. Whether you brag about your beacon score on your first date or cringe six months later when you are discussing applying for a mortgage together, you must communicate your ideas about money, credit, and spending habits. I recall a sticker that a friend of mine had years ago, “Communication is Lubrication”. Perhaps a bit crass, but you get the idea.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, another enormous decision that will affect your finances potentially more than any other considerations is whether or not you plan on having children. Children cost thousands of dollars a year. I am not saying they are not 100% worth it, but for goodness sakes, please discuss this before you decide to get married.
These are issues that can and should be discussed with an objective financial planner who is not trying to sell you something. A great wedding gift is an appointment with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ who charges an hourly fee and does not get paid on commissions. Having some of these discussions with a 3rd party present before you get married is a lot less intimidating and can even be viewed as yet another bonding experience to share your thoughts about money in a safe(i.e. free from crying and screaming) environment.
p.s. If your aversion towards investing in nuclear power contrasts sharply with your beloved’s lack of enthusiastic about solar and wind power, this also needs to be communicated, but we’ll save that discussion for next time.
Brenda is an investment advisory representative of First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC, a nationwide network of investment professionals specializing in sustainable and responsible investing. She is an active member of the Financial Planning Association and a Certified Financial Planner™ since 2007. Brenda is the treasurer for both William and Mary’s Richmond Chapter of the Alumni as well as for her homeowner’s association. A coordinator for the annual Richmond Vegetarian Festival since 2003 and an active member of the Vegetarian Society of Richmond for over a decade, she thrives on meeting and educating people on the virtues of living a healthy, cruelty-free lifestyle.
Brenda can be contacted through her website at www.brendaveggie.com.