How To: Get on the Right Financial Path

Here’s how to do it right now, for a harmonious future that’s paved in green

Remember MASH? Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House — it was the game you played for hours at sleepovers with your girlfriends to predict what your life would be like: whom you’d marry, where you’d live, what type of car you’d drive, how many kids you’d have. Congrats — you’ve already landed your dream guy. (And who knows, maybe it is John from second-period algebra!) Now, you and your fiancé get to envision a real version of that perfect future together. But not without having a real conversation about money first.

We know what you’re thinking: Money can be a really heated, sensitive issue, especially when it comes to relationships. The trick is to stop thinking about money as a deal-breaker and start thinking about it as a way to unite you and your hubby-to-be — and land you exactly the type of life you’ve always hoped for, one even the best game of MASH couldn’t predict. Here, four easy steps from local financial pros to achieve just that.  

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Consider all the time you’ll devote to planning your wedding — researching photographers, checking out venues, finding the dress, picking the perfect cake filling. But what about what happens after your honeymoon? If you devote just a fraction of the time you’ll spend planning your wedding to a discussion of your financial future, you and your fiancé will be on much sturdier footing as you start your life together. Philadelphia-based Merrill Lynch financial adviser Mary Jo Harper’s advice is simple: “Pick one Sunday afternoon — after the Eagles game, of course — and say, ‘Okay, we’re going sit down and talk about our finances.’ Make it part of your wedding-planning agenda.”

“My biggest hurdle was telling Mike about my student loans,” says newlywed Dina Brozzetti of the conversation she knew she had to have with now husband Mike. At the time, the couple was recently engaged, and planning and budgeting for a wedding they were paying for themselves. “When I was in college, I had one credit card that I used for living expenses, and he needed to know that, too.” Dina was right to be up-front with Mike. Malvern-based financial planner Beth D’Andrea can’t stress how important it is to “lay it all out on the table” well before you take a step down the aisle. Your partner should know about any investments you have, plus any outstanding student loans, medical bills, car payments or credit-card debt. Basically, you need to discuss what, exactly, each of you is bringing, financially speaking, to the marriage. Then, after having an honest discussion about your individual financial lives, you can start imagining what your financial future as a couple — and a family — will look like.