Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will tie the knot this Saturday in one of the most watched wedding ceremonies of all time. While the news media is making much ado about a divorced biracial American actor marrying into the British royal family, the story is still a classic one that we love - an ordinary girl is becoming a princess. In front of an estimated audience of 3 billion people around the world.
Talk about pressure.
While Harry and Meghan will have a nation full of helpers for their domestic life, they will hopefully make their way back to some sort of normalcy after the wedding is over. The same is true - on a much less grand scale - for newlywed couples these days. In our social media world, a wedding is possibly the best (and worst) opportunity to show off your life: beautiful, perfectly lit, and full of joy. But then what?
As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional, I meet these couples 2, 5, and often 20 or more years into marriage. They are still living the life they see in magazines and in their friends’ behaviors. But they never got to the part of building their life together, setting goals for what they want to achieve as a family, and using their resources and money to have the life they want. My experience is that the earlier that couples work on this part of their marriage, the clearer the decisions become for them when there’s not enough money for the big house, the new car, the private school, and the vacation.
My advice to newlyweds everywhere is simple:
Discuss your goals. We hardly ever see couples that completely agree on how they should use their money. For those who never discuss what they want their money to help them achieve in their lives, they have no framework to decide whether it’s okay to buy a car, or shop for a new dress, or go on a vacation. Discuss and agree on as many goals as you can early, and use that foundation to help you through other decisions that are not as easy.
Begin saving immediately, without delay. While you may be dealing with paying down student loan or credit card debt, dedicate yourselves as a couple to the habit of saving. Even if the amount is $25 per month, you will then arrive at December with $300 to spend, or leave in savings and start the next year with some extra financial cushion. The key here is to make it a hard-wired habit so that as more money becomes available in the future, you direct it to the bigger goals.
Make a plan to pay off debt. I won’t dwell on this because the rule of thumb to pay off debt (specifically credit cards and student loans) does still seem to be well-known. The point is to have a plan, including a timeframe and a dollar amount. The important and unpopular element here is to delay gratification. While it may seem like fun to go out to eat all the time with your friends, a commitment to redirecting those dollars from meals to paying off debt will give you financial freedom sooner.
Live beneath your means. This may sound practical and obvious, but I truly believe that the social media world has distorted what most of us think is a normal lifestyle. These days, if you haven’t gone to Machu Picchu by the time you’re 30, you simply haven’t lived. Guess what? I’ve never been to Machu Picchu, and I’m both happy and well-traveled. When you live beneath your means, you keep debt at bay, have room to build funds for emergencies and longer term goals, and use your money as a source of confidence, instead of stress.
The wedding of Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle will take place on Saturday, May 19th, at Windsor Castle at Noon GMT, or 6 AM in Dallas. While you are sitting with your morning coffee and watching with delight, consider taking a few minutes to write down how you want your money to help you live the life you want, and just one step to help you get there.