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Posted by Danielle Harvey on 25 May 2020
Svenja Keller, head of Wealth Planning at Killik & Co has some stellar advice for couples that are planning their weddings; and what better time to get your finances in order than in lockdown?!
"Most weddings are a major financial commitment, and we have seen heart-breaking stories of couples unable to get their money back from venues forced to cancel due to the pandemic, leaving them thousands out of pocket," says Svenja. "As the Government has said, the steps we take over the next few weeks and months are incredibly fragile, and it is understandable if couples who were due to wed feel like they are in limbo, emotionally and financially. While some will choose to go ahead as soon as they can, for others a small gathering is just not what they had pictured for their big day and dates have already been re-arranged for next year. Whatever the scenario, your finances are soon to be legally bound and there are few things you will need to consider:
Decide how to split your expenses: you may be on relatively equal salaries but if you aren't, it's important to decide early on how you will approach everything from bills to mortgage payments. For example, you could pay a percentage of your monthly income into a joint account, and draw down from that account when making payments. So, if one partner earns £70,000 and the other earns £32,000, putting aside 35% of take-home pay would amount to around £1,400 and £700. This is flexible as each partner's income changes, but agreeing on this upfront will prevent tension further down the line.
Credit scores - have an honest conversation: people approach money in very different ways; it can depend very much on your personality as to whether you usually brush things under the carpet or deal with bills as soon as they arrive. This means that one partner may have a better credit score than the other, and once you open a joint bank account you will be 'co-scored' – a financial link is created between the two of you. Credit scores can be hurt even by one or two missed payments, and this will hinder applications for further loans. It is important to be aware of this. Consider how you will appear as 'one' to lender and if you are in agreement, help your partner work their score back up – paying off credit card bills on time and paying off any outstanding debt.
Look at your emergency funds: if you decide to go ahead and marry as soon as possible, it's important to consider that the jobs market is unstable at the moment and the money you had set aside may need to go towards supporting the other in the event of a job loss. It may seem bleak, but looking now at what 'rainy day' savings you each have will ensure you are prepared should this happen. A general rule of thumb is to have three to six months' worth of living costs set aside.
Make a joint financial plan: this goes for newlyweds as well as those hoping to be married – split out your joint goals and ambitions according to short, medium and long-term. This could be getting married/going on honeymoon, buying a house and then growing a family and paying for your children's education. But it could also be something totally different like starting a business, going travelling or buying a small hold to have lots of animals. Whatever your goals are, it is important to discuss them and understand what you both want to achieve, how to join up your individual goals and how both your finances can be put to use to achieve these goals. Priorities will have to be discussed and you may have to compromise of course. As hard as it is to imagine, it's even recommended that you plan your retirement together and start saving towards that. Having really clear goals will help you to maximise your joint finances, and you could consider joint investment accounts to grow your money together.
Maintain your independence: for all the talk of joint accounts and couple goals, it's equally important that you don't put all your eggs in one basket. Maintaining financial independence is important within a relationship, but even more so should the relationship sadly come to an end. I have seen first-hand how complicated and fraught divorce cases can be, and it becomes even harder to navigate if one party brings significantly more assets to the relationship than the other. At this time, it is difficult to think about these things but if there is a lot of wealth involved, a prenuptial agreement could be considered. In any case, and on a slightly more positive note, many of us like independence and it would therefore not hurt to have some funds in your own name, regardless of whether the marriage lasts.