The business of marriage: Long-term planning to talk about
It’s not all fun and fantasy.
Before and after bride and groom tramp down the aisle to say “I do,” they have to leap through a few bureaucratic hoops and lunge over a couple of financial and emotional hurdles. We’ve come up with a list of components every couple should think about before and after the wedding ceremony.
The marriage license
Autumn Jones, a supervisor with the Clerk in Douglas County District Court, says people often don’t know how to go about making a marriage legal.
“I get a lot of questions about name changes and licenses — that’s typical,” Jones says. “And it’s not often, but sometimes people have no clue where to start.”
If getting married in Douglas County, somebody needs to go to the lower level of the judicial center in the District Court Clerk’s Office — it’s located at 111 E. 11th St. — to apply for the license.
In Kansas, no blood test is required. The license costs $59. And after the license is issued — which should take three days to arrive — the ceremony must occur in Kansas within six months.
To change a last name, the interested party needs to contact the records department in the District Court Clerk’s Office after the ceremony to fetch a copy of the marriage license. It costs $4. The next step is to shuttle up to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles, 1035 N. Third St., and get a new driver’s license. The person swapping her or his name also needs to fetch a new Social Security card. That can be done at the Social Security Administration Office, 1440 Wakarusa Drive.
After the name switch
If you have business cards and are going to change your name, you might consider ordering new cards before your wedding so they’ll be ready to go. And remember to send banks and utility companies documents to notify them of your new name.
Climbing through all of the red tape might seem daunting, but for a lasting marriage a couple should consider some other arduous elements such as cooperation, says Candice Davis, clinical social worker.
When asked what newlyweds have to look forward to after the wedding, Candice has a one-word response: “Reality.”
Sometimes the wedding planning process can artificially hold a couple together: It can serve as a common goal the couple work toward achieving. When the goal vanishes after walking down the aisle, it is sometimes replaced with squabbles over scattered dirty clothes, lidless toothpaste containers, and empty toilet paper rolls.
Davis says it’s important to delineate household chores and to be clear about what each person’s responsibilities are.
“It’s incredibly different when your best friend becomes your roommate,” Davis says. “The key is respect and communication.”
Even couples that have already lived together should expect changes.
“It’s not like there’s a backdoor and you can just walk out of (a marriage),” Davis said. “There’s a different level of commitment after the wedding.”
It’s important to realize that each partner in a marriage lives in a different internal world and looks at problems in a different way. The key to shrinking divisions is communication. Silent thoughts should be pulled to the surface, Davis says. If one person is feeling misunderstood or hurt, it’s necessary to bring it up, but to bring it up in a way that shows courtesy and concern, not hostility.
It’s also important to check in with the husband or wife before making outside plans. The marriage should take precedence over other relationships, Davis says. And date nights need to be part of the conversation. The frequency and duration a partner wants to spend with together will vary. One person might want to have a date night every day. Another will be happy with an outing once a week — or even once every two to three weeks.
“Spending time together is really important, but not to the exclusion of every other relationship you have,” Davis says.
Balancing the budget
Swapping rings is one thing. Swapping bank statements is another. Young couples are more apt to talk about sex than money, says Margaret Stenseng, a mutual fund counselor with Waddell & Reed.
“The most boring thing in the world is to create a budget and keep track of spending, but it’s one of the most enlightening things a couple can do,” Stenseng says. “Couples often spend much time, money and resources planning a wedding but don’t spend any time at all talking about how to deal with the checkbook.”
Before plunging into a marriage, a couple should talk about money. This means talking about pre-existing debt, Stenseng says. Both parties need to know what kind of deficit they’re climbing into, including student loans, car loans and credit card debt. All of it needs to be pushed to the surface before walking down the aisle. And after they’re married, a couple should talk about finances at least once a year — quarterly is better though — after the marriage. And if they’re dipping into the red, money should be a weekly topic.
“Most people bring their habits from their parents,” Stenseng says. “So it’s important to find out how your significant other’s family handled money. Talk about what was good about it, what was bad and what to leave behind.”
In the bank
Before tying the knot, couples should decide whether to lump money into one account or to keep chucking it into separate ones. There is no right or wrong answer for this, says Janis Bunker of TCK Trust and Financial Advisors. It is very individualistic, but it needs to be talked about. And after making the decision, the couple should start dumping money into a savings account.
“I advise couples to try to do what some people call ‘pay yourself first,’ which means putting away a certain amount for savings each month,” Bunker says.
Bunker uses “savings” as an umbrella term to refer to everything from retirement to mortgage payments, from car loans to the kids’ college tuition. And the retirement fund should be a high priority, she says. If the husband’s or wife’s employer offers a 401(k) plan, they should definitely plop money into the account.
Aside from retirement, Bunker says a couple should put away what ever it can afford. But Stenseng adheres to a more rigid rule of saving 10 percent. The rule of thumb for an individual is to stack up 10 percent of the income. In a marriage, if both people are working, the number naturally doubles.
Young newlyweds often don’t consider themselves candidates for early death. But it happens, says Stenseng. And because it can happen to anyone, life insurance should be a priority for any marriage with a financially dependent spouse.
“Absolutely invest in insurance if someone is financially dependent on you,” Stenseng says. “It is a must.”