These two big life-changing events can be common this time of year, but a Kansas State University expert says college students, whether in school or getting out soon, should do some financial planning before planning the wedding.
Laura Weiss-Cook, graduate student in family studies and human services and peer counselor for K-State’s Powercat Financial Counseling, said students planning on marriage should begin by discussing their attitudes and expectations concerning money with their future spouses.
“Individuals should expect their partner will be open and honest with them regarding finances,” Weiss-Cook said. “It’s reasonable to expect your partner to live within the budget and financial goals you establish together.”
Students should learn their partner’s history of handling money and financial priorities. Couples should honestly reveal any assets and debts to their partner, she said.
A common mistake students make is not discussing ground rules for purchases of small and large items that could lead to further debt and cause conflicts, Weiss-Cook said.
“Facing financial issues as partners, having regular reviews of where things stand, as well as creating an environment in which both members of the couple can discuss money honestly and respectfully, can help prevent conflict,” she said.
Weiss-Cook recommends that couples not co-mingle the individual debts that they accumulated prior to the relationship. Individual credit card debt and student loans fall in this category.
Couples need to establish a division of money management tasks and have short-term and long-term goals for the future. “These goals typically consist of buying a home, having children, repaying debt, making investments, having a savings plan and planning for retirement,” she said.
Students can pay down pre-existing debt and avoid further debt by creating a spending plan that is in line with their financial goals. This plan will help couples live within their means while meeting savings or debt reduction goals, Weiss-Cook said.
“Decisions should be made with thought and research to determine if expenditures are both appropriate to their goals and the most effective way of meeting these goals,” she said. “An emergency fund of three to six months of expenses will help couples be ready for the unexpected.”
A spending plan also can help couples establish how much money is available for debt payments.
Another big decision is whether to consolidate checking and savings accounts. Weiss-Cooks says it will depend on individual circumstances.
“It’s not required to have a joint account,” she said. “Some couples combine every aspect of their finances and others combine none. Some couples may have an individual account but then also have a joint account they use to pay family expenses such as rent or a mortgage.”