Studies* show Americans spend up to 10 hours per week for more than one year planning their weddings. That's a lot of time spent planning a single event. There's an argument to be made that almost no time is devoted to planning what comes after the big day. Now, consider the morning after your wedding when you awake into your new life. You have an entire lifetime to plan for, and you and your spouse have some moves to make—starting now.
Marriage today comes in more varieties than ever before. Life moves in all directions and regardless of family structure, there remains a constant objective towards building a future together. Here are some of the main life events that come after getting married and how you can best prepare for them.
Many married couples are content with renting throughout their adult lives—especially in urban centers. But buying a home is still a primary goal for most couples and real estate can be a daunting arena to step into. It's easy to be overwhelmed and pressured into a long-term commitment you're not financially set up for. There are online resources to help calculate the affordability of renting vs. buying to guide your decisions. Spend some time with your spouse to do the long-term math on the hidden costs of owning property: homeowner insurance, building fees, maintenance, property tax, and other expenses. Ask yourself: What are your priorities in a home? Are you shopping for your lifelong home or a stepping stone to your dream home? How much can you realistically afford and are you prepared for unforeseen costs and rises in interest rates? If you're planning to start a family, neighborhoods in desirable school districts may be an important factor. Prioritize your needs and be certain you've found what you're looking for before writing an offer.
Does your new home have room for new occupants? A growing family is a natural progression of marriage. Whether you're having a baby, merging a family, or an elderly relative is moving into your home, be aware that you'll likely be providing for additional family members at some point in the future. There's no standard of a modern family structure or dynamic, but married couples should be aware of costs surrounding child care, college tuition, retirement investments, health insurance and medical assistance. Preparing for a growing family is a basic building block of marriage in terms of your financial future. Don't be overwhelmed and don't be afraid to ask for advice.
"Spend some time with your spouse to do the long-term math on the hidden costs of owning property."
Retirement may seem like a long way off, but it approaches sooner than you expect. Your wedding was once in the distant future, but look at you now! The sooner you start planning for life after work, the sooner it will come and the more established you'll be. Once you're married, you and your spouse should both take a step back to look at your career paths, consider your long-term plans, and set some goals for how your combined earnings will play a part in your future together. Depending on your financial situation, make an effort to max out your 401(k) contributions and if your employer offers to match, take advantage of that. Also look into Roth IRA, and other retirement savings vehicles. Whole Life insurance policies provide death benefit protection which can help your beneficiary replace your income when you are no longer there. But it can also provide living benefits while you're alive. The policy's accumulated cash value** can be used to help supplement your retirement income if the death benefit need decreases in retirement. Working as a partnership towards retirement will make it easier to decide on investments and make budgeting plans that work best for you and your family. Remember, your marriage is unique, so make a plan that's specific to your needs.
Aging family members are a reality of life and become an even greater priority when combining extended families with a spouse. At some point, it may fall on you to provide care and organize medical assistance for your loved ones. Think of this as a pay-it-forward obligation. Do some research to discover what's available for investment strategies and advanced planning options that can help you and your family when someone is in need of care. Add this to your list of new life strategies as a married couple, so you and your spouse can be proactive and prepare for family care as early as possible. You'll thank yourself later.