Paying off wedding debt
If you’re 1 of the many couples who started married life with a large celebration, 1 of the first priorities as newlyweds should be looking at how to manage your wedding debt.
With the average wedding in Canada costing nearly $30,000, 1 in 3 couples go into debtOpens a new website in a new window when paying for theirs.
If you’re 1 of these couples, start the conversation by asking questions such as:
- How much do you owe and to whom? Tally up things like credit cards, outstanding amounts to vendors, and anything you may have borrowed from family.
- Are you paying any interest on these amounts and if so, how much?
- Did you receive any cash gifts from guests that could help to pay down this debt?
- How long will it take you to pay down this debt in total?
- How will paying off your wedding debt impact your ability to do other things like save for the future?
Once you get an idea of how much you owe in total along with how much you can realistically afford to pay off each month (without neglecting important things like contributing to a “rainy day” fund or pension), you can start to plan to pay it off. Some helpful tips to tackle debt include:
- If keeping up with monthly payments is overwhelming, pay the smallest debt amount off first. If cash flow isn’t an issue, pay off the highest interest debt first.
- Once your first amount has been paid off, take the payment you’d be making to that debt and roll it into the next 1.
- Continue this process until you’re only paying off 1 outstanding amount.
- Make sure to make minimum payments each month and on time to avoid costly fees.
Paying off what you’ve spent on your wedding and honeymoon should form part of your larger plan for managing your money going forward. If you haven’t had any discussions about money before marrying, now’s the time to try and set yourselves up for success by asking each other questions and honestly talking about how you’ll manage your money together.
Managing day-to-day finances
To help you have the “money talk” with your partner, there are some questions to ask one another that include:
Did your family not have to worry about money growing up, or was money a struggle? What sort of attitudes did your parents or caregivers have towards finances, and how has this shaped yours?
Levels of financial literacy
How much knowledge do you both have of financial topics and products? How much interest do you have in things like financial news and market cycles, and if this differs greatly, will this be an issue for either of you?
Past financial history
While it may not always be the most comfortable conversation, it’s important to know about any major money issues that have occurred in the past such as racking up large amounts of debt or a past bankruptcy. These things can impact credit scores and in turn the ability to borrow money in the future, which could potentially impact plans such as buying a home.
Pre-marital debt repayments
Do you both have any pre-existing debt such as student loan payments, for example? Now that you’re married, will you plan to tackle any pre-existing debt together, or will you each be responsible for your own?
Current spending and saving habits
It's good to talk to each other about your current spending and saving habits. One of you may take a cautious approach to things like everyday spending and investing, while the other could prefer to live in the moment and worry about the future later. Are these habits you’re both comfortable with, or do you hope to change and/or make improvements going forward?
Your future plans and goals
It's important to talk about what the future looks like, whether that’s deciding where to live, a dream job, retire early, have a family, or travel the world. It’s also a good idea to start discussing how you’ll save and pay for large purchases, such as a car or your first home.
This might include discussing:
- If you’ll combine your finances partly or jointly, or if you plan to keep your money separate
- How you’ll split and manage household bills
- If you plan to continue any expensive habits or hobbies
- If you plan to have children, and how parental leave will impact your household income
- How you’ll plan to save for post-secondary education
- What insurance you’ll need to protect yourself and your family
- If you have kids, determine how you’ll talk to your children about money
- If and how you’ll work together to clear outstanding debts
- How you’ll plan to save for retirement
- What age you’d ideally both like to retire
- What you’d do with a large sum of money like an inheritance
- How you’ll plan to care for aging parents, and if there’s any cost involved with doing so
Speaking to each other about your dreams for the future will help you determine the role your finances will play in creating it.
Are either of you getting any help paying the bills currently?
If yes, how much are they paying, and will this continue after you’re married?
Do you want to combine finances or keep them separate and why?
Because couples are generally marrying later in life, and have kept their own accounts for a while, they may find it difficult to merge their finances with someone else. However, it can be convenient to share at least 1 account to pay shared expenses. If this is your choice, determine how much each partner contributes to this shared account. Other couples choose to completely merge their finances so there are no secrets.
Will you invest separately or have a joint investment account?
Just like having your own savings and chequing accounts, some partners are reluctant to invest with someone else. However, there may be situations (such as a spousal registered retirement savings plan) where it makes more sense to invest with your spouse. With some investments, you may also pay additional fees if you invest separately.
Who will fund your investment accounts?
Will you both of you contribute to your investments, or just the partner who makes the most money? This may depend upon the group investment opportunities each of you has with your employer.
Should you invest alone or with an advisor?
Some couples may be comfortable with 1 partner making all the investment decisions. However, if the partners have different feelings about investment risk, or if neither wants to make investment decisions, it makes sense to work with an investment advisor. This advisor can also provide important information about other aspects of your financial wellbeing such as life insurance, health insurance, saving for retirement (registered retirement savings plans), saving for other goals (tax-free savings account), or saving for a child’s education (registered education savings plan).
Who will do your taxes?
Taxes must be paid every year. Will 1 or both partners do their own taxes, or will you leave the task to a professional? There are some instances when doing your taxes together makes good financial sense.
Planning the Golden Years
Now that you’re married, planning for your retirement together should become a priority.
There are many things to consider when it comes to creating a retirement plan, starting with what you want that retirement to look like. Do you envision years filled with travel and adventure? Or living abroad? Or do you plan to stay closer to home spending quality time with family?
You should also consider what kind of retirement budget you’ll need, and how much you’ve saved so far towards it to see if you’re on track. We know that women retire with less money saved than men, and this and other factors such as whether either of you have paid into a workplace pension will impact your overall savings.
If you have a family or a business, thinking about how you’ll pass on your assets after you’ve gone is also important. You may speak to an advisor to get help with succession planning, or a lawyer to help you draft up wills and a plan for managing your inheritance.