Sex and Finances
Let’s be honest. Our daughters are not likely to be virgins on their wedding night. The days of awkward discussions about what to expect on the wedding night are long over. We should have discussed sex, pregnancy, and other truly uncomfortable topics long before our daughters think about getting married. However, just because these discussions are unnecessary, does not mean our daughters do not need our advice on a whole number of potentially awkward topics. Finances and financial intelligence are topics I wish I knew more about before I got married; both times.
If I had the financial intelligence I encourage my two college-age daughters to pursue, I would have made several decisions throughout our lives differently. I have made it a priority to encourage my daughters to learn about their financial future and take control of their own finances.
THE TABOO OF MONEY AND WOMEN UNDERSTANDING IT
Just as girls are not encouraged to excel in math and science, young women are not encouraged to learn about money and financial planning. Often, the first large scale financial decisions our daughters make relate to their own weddings. Too often, they make these decisions with a lack of knowledge of the effect of those decisions on themselves and the future of their marriage. Thus, the wedding and the cost of the wedding is the perfect opportunity to address this important subject.
Financial stress remains one of the most common causes of marital discord. Encouraging our daughters to understand finances and develop financial intelligence may be the best advice we can give them before marriage. Letting our daughters believe that they should not seriously consider the cost of their “one special day” and its potential effects on their financial future is irresponsible, if not reckless. I certainly do not want my daughters to depend on the men in their lives to “take care of the finances.” Very few of our daughters will be stay at home mothers, and even those who are, owe it to themselves and their families to be fully engaged in financial decisions affecting their families.
“CAN’T BUY ME LOVE”
The Knot wedding planning website claims the average cost of a wedding is $28,858.00. Another website, www.costofawedding.com, states that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,200.00. In San Diego County California, where I live, the average cost of a wedding is $34,154.00. I think these statistics are low. I know couples who have spent between $65,000 and $75,000 for weddings in the last ten years. (Middle class couples, not wealthy couples.) My own experiences, as a bride, a mother, and a businesswoman, have led me to advise my daughters to do their research, create budgets, and prioritize all decisions affecting their financial status.
Our daughters are encouraged to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one day without knowing where that money to pay for that day will come from, and without comparing the costs of that day to their own ability to earn money. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ September, 2014 published Salary Survey finds the average starting salary of a 2014 college graduate is $48,707.00; slightly more for business and engineering majors and slightly less for just about everyone else. Our daughters could rack up a wedding cost equal to or more than the salary they make in a full year without even realizing it.
The old adage that money does not buy happiness is true. A “dream wedding” will not make a perfect marriage. But, financial intelligence can provide our daughters some peace of mind, psychological, and financial freedom.
WHAT KIND OF FREEDOM?
- Freedom to live where they want to live.
- Freedom to decide that her boss’ questionable behavior does not have to be tolerated.
- Freedom to decide that her spouse’s questionable boss does not have to be tolerated.
- Freedom to have that baby without a job with paid maternity leave.
- Freedom to leave that marriage that didn’t turn out the way the fairy tales told her it would.
This kind freedom can lead to happiness.
A DAUGHTER, A COLLEGE, AND MANHATTAN
One of my daughters is in college in Manhattan. She is in love with the City and may stay there after she graduates. The average cost of a rental home is between $2,000.00 to $2,500.00 in San Diego and Los Angeles (where I live), and $3,000.00 to $4,200.00 in Brooklyn and Manhattan (as of September 2014, according to the website rentbit.com). The average cost of a home in the U.S. currently hovers around $300,000 to $350,000. (The average cost of a three-bedroom two-bath home in my neighborhood in San Diego is about $600,000. You cannot buy a home in or around Manhattan for $600,000.) A home bought at the national average calculates to a monthly mortgage payment in the $3,000.00 range.
If we assume our daughters and their spouses each make the average college graduate salary at the time of their wedding, after taxes, they will each bringing home roughly $3,000.00 or a total of $6,000 per month. Thus, approximately half of the new couple’s monthly income will be spent on living arrangements.
Our daughters need to understand these financial facts in order to plan for and live where they would like to live.
CURRENT EMPLOYMENT CLIMATE: THE REAL DEAL
Whether our daughters, their spouses, or both, are employed throughout their marriage, the reality is that the days of going to work at a company, staying with that company until retirement and, receiving a gold watch for 25 to 50 years of dedicated service (never mind collecting a pension) are gone. The current employment climate includes companies regularly reorganizing, cutting programs, and laying off large portions of their work force. Our daughters may not find their career in their first post-graduate job. A working knowledge of finances and financial intelligence provides our daughters with the tools to prepare for and weather these employment uncertainties.
While the days of a woman losing her job because she chooses to have a baby should be over, unfortunately, there are still far too many jobs that do not provide paid maternity leave. Family Leave Laws provide that women who take time to have a baby may return to their jobs, or an equivalent job to the one had when they went on maternity leave, after a proscribed period. However, very few such laws require paid leave. Many of our daughters will be limited to state sponsored disability insurance while on maternity leave. I have advised my daughters to prepare and plan for a growing family when they are ready to have that family, not when they can find a job with paid maternity leave.
AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS AND OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HAVE THEM
We have pointedly taught our daughters that the days when a young woman was expected to stay in an unfulfilling or even abusive relationship because “even a bad husband is better than no husband” are gone. Teaching our daughters to maintain a sense of financial independence could relieve them of one of the most compelling reasons they stay in unsatisfying relationships; they simply cannot fathom the financial implications of leaving the relationship.
Though the topic of discussion has changed, our responsibility as parents to prepare our daughters for both the joys and the hardships of married life remain. I am no expert at this discussion. I advise my daughters to take control of their financial future, to figure out what things in life are important to them (family, travel, etc.), to learn to invest money, and to learn how to leverage their companies’ 401K plans. My advice is not always appreciated. One of my daughters knows where she is going and how much money she will need to get there. The other is vaguely aware she has a paycheck and a bank account; though she still hasn’t entirely figured out how the bank account gets overdrawn.
Each one of these topics is potentially awkward, controversial, or contentious. Yet, these topics are each as important to helping our daughters prepare for marriage as the “what to expect on your wedding night” discussion was to the daughters of the Victorian Era.
Jacqueline S. Vinaccia is the mother of three millennials, twin 19-year-old girls, and a 17-year-old son. She is a partner and head of the litigation department at Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak LLP, a boutique law firm in North San Diego County. And she is a proud member of the Millionaire Girls Movement. Contact Ms. Vinaccia at firstname.lastname@example.org.