It doesn’t take long after a baby’s birth to catch yourself dreaming of the day you will walk your daughter down the aisle or dance with your son on his wedding day. It’s natural to dream of who they will become and who they may spend the rest of their lives with.
But these days, of course, a wedding can mean an engagement party, multiple themed showers, a rehearsal dinner and at least one elaborate weekend ceremony competing with British royalty.
The price tag can balloon quickly.
On occasion, I sit down with clients who are the parents of soon-to-be newlyweds. They are naturally excited for their children and want to lend a hand by offsetting some of the cost or even by paying for the entire wedding.
As their financial professional, I am thrilled to hear their joy. Yet many times I’ve seen what initially appear to be beautiful, happily ever after love stories end up in divorce court, leaving the generous and loving parents holding the empty money bag.
Here are my recommendations for my clients and their soon-to-be-newlywed children to try to head off such situations. First, I remind them it’s your money. Therefore it’s prudent for you to protect your investment.
To help your children get a good head start on marriage and finances, try these 7 steps:
- Require marriage counseling.
- Request they read at least one marriage book (such as Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs or 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married by Monica Mendez Leahy).
- Guide them through a cash-flow sheet, which will detail their combined incomes and expenses. Together they must be able to prioritize giving 10%, saving 20% and learning to live on 70%.
- Teach them that debt is the enemy.
- Encourage them to commit to shared accounts, because if it’s easy to split, they may split.
- Help them determine their “SELFIE” money. “SELFIE” money is a monthly amount they can spend frivolously, without accountability to their partner, which helps maintain a healthy individuality.
- Join them for an introductory meeting with your financial advisor.
The old proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The best wedding gift you can give your child is the financial and relational tools that will help them stay married through the storms of life, that can rock even the best of marriages. By instructing them to fish for themselves financially, it will make meaningful ripples in your family for lasting for generations.
Andrew McNair is the president of SWAN Capital, an independent financial services firm in Pensacola, Florida. He has experience in the fields of retirement income, wealth preservation, and long-term care and has a strategic partnership with an attorney for estate planning services.
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