Premarital Financial Planning Part 3: Making a Plan
Learn how creating a joint vision and financial plan will help set you up for success in Part 3 of our Pre-marital Financial Planning Series from Adam Kol, Couples Financial Coach.
Are you ready to bring it all together? Here’s where the rubber hits the road, the dreams start becoming a reality, where you realize your destiny… okay, okay. I’ll give it a rest.
But let’s get excited!
As a quick reminder, here’s a bit about me:
- I’m Adam Kol, The Couples Financial Coach. I help couples navigate sticky money situations together, whether they’re combining finances or not.
You now should know:
- Your current financial situation;
- Your top financial priorities; and,
- How to have healthy money talks
Now, we’re going to take all of that and turn it into what I like to call a “Joint Vision & Plan for Financial Prosperity.”
Creating a Joint Vision of Financial Freedom
As you work on this, have a conversation about financial freedom. What does this mean to you? Many people define it in terms of things like:
- Early retirement
- Passive income (i.e., money that doesn’t require active work to earn/generate; rental property income is a classic example)
- Freedom to say yes or no to a job
- Free time to do what they love or be with the people they love
- The ability to go to the store without having to worry about sales or coupons
- Being able to see the world, try cuisines, experience art, etc.
What from this list resonates or not? What else might you add to it?
Now, consider how the vision and plan you’re putting together intersects with your idea of financial freedom. If it’s got you on track toward it, that’s fantastic! If it doesn’t, see if you might want to adjust some of your priorities or timelines.
Keep in mind that the connection need not be direct. For instance, let’s say your goal is to retire early by creating lots of savings and investments. Paying off your current credit card debt may not directly create those savings or investments, yet it’s probably still key to improving your credit, lowering interest payments, and freeing up cash for other uses.
Key 3: Make a Financial Plan Based on Your Joint Vision
Creating Your Plan
To make a solid plan, the key is to understand the interrelationship between your:
- Expenses, and
As the difference between your expenses and income increases, you have more money to put toward your goals, which means you can achieve them faster. On the other hand, if the difference gets smaller, then you have less money to put toward your goals, which means that they will take longer to achieve.
Taking longer to reach your goals may seem like a bad thing…but it ain’t necessarily so.
Perhaps if you added $200 a month to your expenses, you could pay for a cleaning service that would greatly improve your quality of life. All else equal, you’d have $200 less for your goals, but maybe you don’t mind so much if, say, one of those goals takes a bit longer to achieve.
Because you are doing this work, now you actually get to compare the pros and cons and then act accordingly.
Let’s say you want both to be able to hire a cleaning service and also achieve your goals at the pace you originally set. What could you do?
The simplest answers are:
- Find a way to generate $200 more of income, or
- Cut $200 somewhere else that doesn’t bring as much value as the cleaning service
Through this process, I had a client realize that they could actually be a stay-at-home parent, living on their spouse’s income, a possibility they had never even entertained!
Here, you can get super intentional here, as customized and creative as you want to best utilize the money you work so hard to earn!
How do we figure out the specific numbers involved? Treat as fixed for the moment both your income and what it would cost to attain your goals.
Add structure and clarity to the expenses by separating them into different categories/buckets. Each family is unique, but here are some common ones:
- Dining & Entertainment
- Health & Wellness
- Phone & Utilities
- Charitable Donations
- Personal (I use this as a “catch-all” for things that don’t fit anywhere else)
Feel free to tailor this list to your tastes, but I do suggest keeping things simple at first, especially if you’ve tended to avoid tracking your money. Get into the groove, and then once you’re really settled, you can start tweaking and optimizing.
Now here’s the key piece that most finance people miss: budget in a proactive way. It’s good to see what you’ve already spent; but think about how much more powerful it is to decide before the month even starts how you want to allocate your money.
Divide your income amongst your categories and your goals, noticing the push and pull between your spending versus how long it takes to reach your goals. Some tips:
- Use the information you’ve already gathered to fill in the plan/budget
- Play around with different possibilities, seeing how they feel
- Let go of perfection; your vision is subjective, so perfection is impossible anyway!
Once you land on a setup(s) that you both feel at least pretty good about…give it a shot!
You may feel nervous dealing with concrete numbers and objectives and the possibility of failure. That makes a ton of sense – this can be scary!
You may feel restricted by having a budget. This is also very normal; just notice your thoughts and feelings around it and try to understand them better. If your motivation dips, recall what’s possible for your relationship and life if you can rock your finances.
On the other hand, you may feel more freedom around your spending, especially for “unnecessary things.” If you felt guilty in the past, having a plan that accounts for that spending may give you permission to actually get out there and enjoy yourself!
You can also fold in some other big-picture considerations or wants, such as:
- Does either of you plan on starting a side hustle or (eventually) a full-time business? How much capital might that business need?
- If you have or want to have children: would either of you want to be a stay-at-home parent for any period of time?
- What family-related financial obligations do you have now or may you have (or want to have) in the future?
It’s OK not to have concrete answers, but if these issues are important to you, then you can start to view your joint vision and plan with them in mind.
You’re making incredible progress! You now have a clear plan that resonates with both of you, and you’re ready to be intentional and proactive in accomplishing your goals and living the kind of life you truly want to have.
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