Op-ed: Coupled Up and Saving Up
When discussing finances with your partner do you feel you are from different planets? If so you aren’t alone. With a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down by the Supreme Court, financial planning for LGBT people can be even more complex and confusing. Financial matters are reported to be the number one issue with couples. The complexity and ever changing rules facing gay couples can make these issues even more difficult and frustrating to deal with. I’d like to share a few tips to help you reduce the likelihood of money woes bringing your relationship to an early demise.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan. The bottom line is, if you work on a financial plan together, you will be forced to communicate and it will hide financial time bombs that could create chaos in the future. Avoiding conversations about your finances may increase your chances of some small bump in the road turning into a larger issue.
2. Figure Out How to Split Expenses. Find an arrangement that works for you as a couple. This may be 50-50 split, or sharing expenses based on the size of your incomes. The important thing is to have an arrangement that you both find fair, and works for you. Not taking this step can easily lead to resentment or fights over spending in other areas.
3. Know Your Role. Don’t forget that whether you are cohabiting, married, or domestic partners, your relationship may not fully recognized by the federal government. Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date. Make sure you have the proper life insurance in place, and consider disability and long-term care insurance if appropriate. Also, don’t forget that you may be able to use your lack of federal recognition to your advantage — look for ways to maximize benefits and minimize taxes as an “unmarried” couple.
4. Expect the Unexpected. Life happens, and odds are if you are together long enough, someone will get sick or laid off, your 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 your “fun” parts of your plan, and hopefully reduce the financial stress in the household.
5. Remember to Have Fun. If you can afford it, set aside some money for something fun like a vacation, or some money to cross a big adventure off your bucket list. Setting aside money becomes easier when you are at least partially saving for something fun and exciting. It may be hard for both of you to get excited about saving for a retirement that could 20 or 30 years away, but mixing in that trip to Hawaii next winter might help keep things on track.
If you procrastinate and don’t act on your financial plan, even the best advice on the planet is irrelevant. Whether you are newlyweds or about to retire, the best advice I can you give couples now is to get your head out of the sand and start building your financial lives together. Consider contacting a professional who may help with your specific situation and time frame in mind. Put a plan into place and start saving for those goals automatically and sufficiently to help ensure that you don’t outlive your financial resources.
DAVID RAE, CFP® specializes in retirement planning for the LGBT community. Follow him on Facebook on Twitter at @davidraecfp or via his website, www.DavidRaeFP.com.
Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation, member FINRA, SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Trilogy and NPC are separate and unrelated entities.