I've been gay my whole life, a Certified Financial Planner for well over a decade, coupled with my sweetheart for six years and married to him for 13 months and counting. From this perspective, I'd like to share a few tips for a happy, healthy and successful marriage with my LGBT brethren. While less experienced at marriage (so far), I do have considerable background as a Financial Planner working with LGBT couples to the point that it has become my specialty.
As a community, our relationships face a unique set of challenges. Fortunately, lack of legal recognition is no longer a major issue (while I'm not naïve to think discrimination is finished, the tide has shifted dramatically -- and permanently -- in our favor). But newfound marriage equality is forcing many couples to deal with issues they may have been able to previously ignore.
At the same time, all married couples face challenges directly or indirectly related to money and finances. I would never claim to have all the answers to every marriage problem. But here are some significant ways to help reduce the likelihood of money woes jeopardizing your relationship.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan.
Capable couples communicate about money early and often. Ideally, I'd like to see you have a financial plan in place before you tie the knot. Working on (and working out) a financial plan together can preemptively diffuse monetary time bombs and future chaos. Avoiding conversations about your finances now exponentially increases your chances of some small bump in the road turning into a larger issue later. Essential topics include kids, where to live, how much to save and credit card management.
2. Figure Out How To Split Expenses.
Find an arrangement that works for you as a couple. Some couples work a 50-50 split while others share expenses based on the size of their incomes. The important thing is to have an arrangement that you both find fair and that works for you. Not taking this step can easily lead to resentment or fights over spending in other areas.
3. Get Your Policies And Paperwork In Order.
You are now a married couple with legally recognized rights and obligations. Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date. Obtain the proper amounts of life insurance, and consider disability and long-term care insurance. Also remember you will now most likely be filing your taxes jointly. So be strategic with retirement plan contributions and other potential spousal benefits that may be available to you now.
4. Expect The Unexpected.
Life happens. Odds are, if you are together long enough, someone will get sick or laid off, a car will break down, or some other emergency will pop up. Being prepared and having an emergency fund will help keep you on track for your financial goals, reduce the odds of having to cancel the "fun" parts of your plan and reduce the financial stress in the household. At the very least, a nice financial cushion will help to ensure that much-needed last minute trip to Puerto Vallarta won't end up piling up interest on a credit card.
5. Figure In The Fun.
If you can afford it, also set aside money for the memory-making good times like vacations, adventures on your bucket list or all-out binges on holiday gifts. Getting into the habit of saving becomes easier when you also include something fun and exciting in the mix. As essential as it is, it may be hard for you two to get excited about contributing to a retirement that could be 20 or 30 years away. But knowing you're also saving up for a trip to Hawaii next winter might help keep things on track. (Mind you, neither one should come at the expense of the other. But you knew that, right?)
6. Watch The Waistline Along With The Bottom Line.
Many of our newly married friends -- gay and straight -- seem to pack on a few extra pounds in their first years of marriage. Do yourself a favor and limit the dining out and ordering in. Your waistline, your wallet and your svelte 90-year-old self will thank you for it. Let the good times roll, for sure, but keep up with the crunches, too.
7. Take Action Now.
If you procrastinate and don't act on your financial plan, even the most expert guidance on the planet is irrelevant. The best advice I can give is to get your head out of the sand and start building your financial lives together now, no matter how long you've been together. Consider contacting a professional who can help with your specific situation and time frame. Putting a plan in place and saving for your goals means that you won't outlive your financial resources and are well positioned to live happily ever after.
DAVID RAE, CFP®, AIF® is a Los Angeles-based retirement planning advisor with Trilogy Financial Services, a firm managing over $2 billion of client assets. He has been helping people reach their financial goals for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter @davidraecfp on Facebook or via his website, DavidRaeFP.com.
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