Published July 5, 2022 on Forbes (Retirement Section)
by Forbes Contributing Author: Cindy Hounsell, President, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement
June, by tradition has always opened the peak wedding season — but the pandemic’s pause on in-person ceremonies has surprisingly multiplied the number of marriage invitations this year. One survey reported 2022 is a banner year, with invitees attending five weddings on average –the most since 1984. And, while most guests will choose their gift off the couple’s registry, here’s hoping that someone provided a bonus gift, such as a visit to a financial planner. Mapping out your financial future together may be overwhelming, because there’s a lot to factor into planning, especially the longer we all live. Although, planners can help you set financial goals and learn how to reach them, it’s important to choose a planner carefully.
So, here’s some big-picture financial advice to consider for any couple but especially for an about-to-be or newlywed couple. Share what you know (and don’t know) about your personal finances: Yes, open up the books – exchange credit reports and scores, and fess up if there are secret financial accounts, or previously undisclosed debt; and, admit if you cashed out the 401(k) account and whether or not you will owe taxes.
In an ideal world, everyone would enter adulthood financially literate – they’d know what someone needs to know to plan for a secure financial future. But, many young people walk into adulthood not knowing the basics. Gen Z – whose oldest members are just starting to marry – has the lowest level of financial literacy of any generation. And Gen Y (aka Millennials) – is the prime generation right now for marriage – scores only a few points higher.
So even if one, or both, of you – were successful at school – but neither of you knows anything about the elements of planning for a financial future, stand up and say so. There’s no shame in not having been taught what you need to know. Only 14 states require high schools to teach a financial literacy class to every student, while 25 states require at least some financial training sometimes as part of another course. But, you can learn. You can take a financial literacy workshop. Or find out if your employer offers a financial wellness program and take advantage of it. Another survey revealed that debt and the pandemic had at least one out of every four Gen Z’s and Millennials anxious that they wouldn’t be able to save for the future.
But the more informed you are, the more likely it is that you will in fact be able to save for your future — yes, even while paying off a loan at the same time. Sharing all these details of your current financial picture can be stressful. Maybe you’re embarrassed to reveal how little you’ve saved. Understandable, but sharing the info now, when you are just beginning to plan together, will help build a plan on a solid foundation. This is also the ideal time when women need to step up – as research shows that while women and men have nearly equal influence on day to-day financial decisions, less than half of women feel they have influence when it comes to investment decisions.
So whether you do it on your own, just the two of you, or turn to someone else for help, learn now, stress less later. After all, marriage is a coming together of two people, and taking time to learn about their finances and planning will help pay for their dreams for their future.