Getting married is not easy, what with the cost of weddings in Singapore, so it’s worthwhile making the effort to stay married. As much as Romeo and Juliet didn’t have much to say about their spending habits (well, they were 14 after all), unless you’re living in a hippie commune where everyone grows their own food, it’s probably best that you steer clear of the following financial mistakes often committed by newlyweds.
1. Keeping Financial Secrets
There’s a big difference between reporting to your spouse how much your MRT ride to work costs each day and disclosing important facts about your financial situation.
Even if you and your spouse have a joint account, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that you might not know about.
In money-sensitive Singapore, many people feel too much shame to disclose situations like credit card debt, being saddled by hefty loan repayments and a less than stellar salary.
The problem with harbouring such secrets, other than the fact that you’re being sneaky, is that sooner or later they’re going to come out anyway, and when that happens your relationship is going to take a huge hit.
When you apply for a home loan, you can be sure your poor credit score is going to come to light in spectacular fashion when your loan applications get rejected.
Also, there’s nothing that kills romance faster than a visit from Ah Tiong the friendly loanshark and his merry band of runners.
2. Not Discussing Big Financial Goals
When you were dating, talking about money might have seemed a bit presumptuous or even tacky. Not wanting to sound like a gold digger or get ahead of yourself, you might have steered clear of conversations about money.
Now that you’re married, though, it’s a whole different ballgame. Like it or not, marriage adds a whole new layer of responsibility to a relationship, and discussing your financial goals, both as a couple and as individuals, can no longer be avoided.
You might discover that your spouse dreams of owning multiple properties and is willing to take on a demanding job to reach that goal, while your main goal is early retirement. Is there a way you can reconcile the two goals and make them work hand in hand?
On the other hand, your spouse might reveal that upholding a certain lifestyle is important to him or her and that retirement planning is not a priority at the moment, because YOLO etc. This might be problematic if you’re feeling pessimistic about your financial future and have been wanting to downsize your expenses.
Whatever the situation, it’s better to find out early so you can come to a compromise before one party starts to lament all those wasted years.
3. Not Accounting for Cultural Differences
While cultural differences can start to cause problems early on in a relationship, they are magnified considerably when money gets involved.
You might fancy yourself a cosmopolitan world citizen, but what happens when your spouse unexpectedly says that his or her parents need financial support for the rest of their lives?
What if your flat isn’t going to be ready for a few years and you’re keen to rent your own place, but your spouse thinks it’s more economical to move in with his or her parents?
Just because the two of you like all the same bands and believe in the importance of universal suffrage doesn’t mean you’ll see eye to eye when it comes to issues like how much support to give your parents or how independent children should be. So tread with care.
4. Not Discussing Your Approach to Parenting
Everyone knows kids cost money, but guess what, just like cars and condos, they cost a whole lot more in Singapore.
With one in two parents who engage tuition teachers spending more than $500 a month, unless one of you is willing to take a back seat when it comes to parenting, expect disputes to arise.
Education being one of the most pressing child-related topics in Singapore, it’s crucial to discuss how much you think is appropriate to invest in your child’s education and enrichment.
Are you going to become an all-out kiasu parent and spare no expense in sending your kid to a fancy kindergarten? Or would you prefer to invest more personal time than money?
Discussing parenting-related costs well before you start trying for a kid can also help you work out what you need to get your finances in order before it’s too late. At least there’ll be a lower chance of your gambling away Junior’s tuition fund.
5. Not Apportioning Financial Burden
Perhaps the male half of your union was too macho to let his female counterpart pay for a thing when you were dating.
But realistically speaking, unless one of you uses dollar bills instead of toilet paper, you’re probably going to have to come up with some sort of plan to divide your financial burdens.
This is a topic that many couples find incredibly sensitive, which makes it all the better to get out of the way early on in a marriage.
How detailed you want your plan to be really depends on how wealthy you and your spouse are. If you both have a six figure monthly income, it might seem silly to apportion the cost of groceries, since you have every meal at Waku Ghin anyway, right?
On the other hand, on an average Singaporean income, you’re going to want to clearly set out who pays for things like groceries, household items and kid-related expenses, as well as your arrangement as to property ownership and payment.
If you’re planning on opening a joint account, you will also have to decide how much each person has to contribute each month and what it can be used for, unless you’re fine with sponsoring your spouse’s car mods or shoe collection.
No one is saying you can’t treat your spouse to dinner every now and then. But knowing the rules can help to ease conflict because you won’t have to enter into a heated discussion every time you go to the supermarket.
Have you ever made any of the above mistakes? Share your experiences in the comments!