Ashley Matusz and Joe Fisher, both 24, talked about cutting $800 off the flower bill for their wedding reception and saving another $1,000 by forgoing flowers at the church.
But the really big budgeting headaches will hit after their wedding. Ashley, in Wayne State University’s medical school, is expecting $130,000 in student loans.
Many young couples are dealing with delicate conversations about debt, such as student loans, credit cards or other debt – or they should be having those discussions this wedding season, financial experts say.
It’s best to come clean before saying “I do” when it comes to what some call the anti-dowry – or when you bring debt to the marriage. Some financial advisers suggest “money dates” instead of movie dates to discuss debt, and they say the most important number is not how many exes you have, but what your credit scores are.
If you’re going to take someone for richer or poorer, it’s far better to know particulars up front.
“Ever since the beginning, I was like, ‘You know, I’m going to have a lot of debt,’ ” said Matusz, who told Fisher about her plans when they started dating a little more than two years ago. She has completed her first year of medical school.
The couple say they’ve been careful not to overspend while dating, too. Fisher cooks a lot of “date night” meals instead of going out, Matusz said. Neither has credit card debt.
Couples need to share their credit report information with each other to get a plan going to tackle any problems.
Everyday life, of course, comes with its own set of bills. Matusz and Fisher will pay rent of about $850 a month for a 625-square-foot apartment. They may need to spend $5,000 on a Ford Focus that’s coming off lease and trade in Fisher’s 2006 Saturn Vue, which has 158,000 miles.
Lauren Locker, a certified financial planner and chairwoman of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, said anyone who is getting married needs to discuss how they’re going to deal with debt.
The average wedding costs $28,400 – close to the average amount of student loan debt. If couples borrow for the wedding and if one has the average amount of student loans, they could be $56,000 in debt before they share the first slice of wedding cake.
She recommends that couples don’t merge all of their money into one account. It’s too convenient to put all the responsibility and bills on one person. Both need to work out the budget and how bills will be paid. If one person makes $30,000 and another makes $80,000 a year, you don’t split the rent bill in half, she said.
Even more key, she said, couples have to ask: What’s the plan? What’s the goal and strategy for paying off debt?
“They have to make a plan. What are you going to sacrifice to get out of that debt?” said Locker.
“It doesn’t go away.”