Illustration by Victoria Borges
Dalal Salomon knows money can be one of the toughest topics for a couple to talk about. As CEO and founding partner of Salomon & Ludwin, an investment and financial advisory firm, Salomon has spent her entire career helping couples navigate difficult financial conversations.
Bride: When should a couple begin to discuss their finances?
Dalal Salomon: For a newly married couple to talk [about finances] before they get married is a really good thing.
Creating a financial plan, even at the very beginning stages of a marriage, gets a couple to talk about what’s really important to them. It lays out a roadmap for their goals and dreams.
Bride: Why is it so difficult for people to talk about money?
DS: The way you were raised and how your parents spoke about money — or didn’t — has a big impact. Some people may have financial guilt coming into a marriage if they have a lot of debt. I have found over 30 years of talking to people about money that opposites really do attract. Usually, in a couple, there is a spender and a saver. If they work together it can be a positive experience, but a lot of times, they don’t work together and it causes resentment.
Bride: How can a saver and a spender live together harmoniously?
DS: It is really important in establishing trust in a relationship that a spender is not hiding their spending habits. If you’re trying to work within a budget as a family, you will never have a true sense of your spending if someone is hiding something. It destroys the trust in a relationship, and it is a slippery slope. You start building up resentment — either that the other person is spending too much, or that you cannot spend what you want.
Bride: Do you advise that each person keep their individual bank accounts?
DS: If you are coming into the marriage with a lot of debt, it may be a good idea to have separate and joint accounts so you can work on paying down that debt you accrued before entering the marriage. … It is also a good idea for a couple to have an understanding of what they can spend without asking each other. Twenty dollars is probably not going to matter, but $1,000 will make an impact. You have to have ground rules and set an amount.
Bride: Is it OK for a couple to go into debt from their wedding expenses?
DS: If you are paying for the wedding and if you have saved for it and planned for it, or have help from your parents, great. Have a big wedding. But you don’t want to go into a marriage with debt and create more debt from spending on your wedding. It can be very stressful.
Bride: What’s the most important thing a young couple can do to plan for their future?
DS: If both people are working, both should be putting money into retirement accounts. Don’t just leave it up to one person, the person who is earning more money. If you get divorced you will be thankful you have something, and both can take advantage of their employer’s match program.
The other big thing we try to advise is not to try to keep up with the Joneses, and it can be hard. You don’t need a big house, the newest car. Buy a smaller house, buy a used car. Keep your expenses low so you can free up money to pay down debt and save for the future.
Bride: Who should be responsible for the finances in a marriage?
DS: If a couple can understand from the very beginning that it’s something you have to take care of together, they will be much better off. It also creates a sense of responsibility for both people for their financial success and attaining their goals.