In her rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama not only spoke of her husband’s triumphs as President, but she spoke about their early financial problems. Among the memories, she revealed: “And believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. We were so young, so in love and so in debt.”
Starting out in debt can wreck a marriage, especially for newlyweds still settling into their life together. Couples should take a few steps to not only ensure a healthy marriage but healthy finances as well. First and foremost, couples need to be honest with each other about their individual debts and understand the other person’s spending habits. Then, start working on building a financial future.
According to brand builder and business consultant, Theresa O’Neal, CEO of O’Neal & Co., it takes work to organize your finances as a couple. I interviewed O’Neal, who gave me a few tips for strategies that worked when she first married.
• Joined Together in Financial Matrimony: “Put everything in the pot together,” says O’Neal. This includes your bills.
• Set Goals: “Create long-term and short-term goals together, keep them visible and remind each other whenever there is a desire to stray off course,” she advises.
• Make it a Team Effort: Financial times are tough, but expenses persist. Even with these pressures, couples should remember to take steps to be good to one another. These little gifts don’t have to be big-ticket items. “Take turns treating each other (inexpensively, creatively) so each person in the marriage feels appreciated and well-respected,” she says. “Sometimes what ruins a marriage is that it feels lopsided, that one person’s goals and dreams are more important than the other person’s. Recognize sacrifices and acknowledge them verbally and non-verbally.”
Who knows… with a little effort, you and your spouse may follow the Obamas to the White House.