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“I had no idea how much planning was involved in getting married,” remembers Amy Carter. “On top of surviving wedding planing, my fiancé and I were trying to sell my condo so I could move to Nashville. Fortunately, both of our families were very supportive of us as we planned for our big day. I was surprised how much my mother and I agreed on details of the wedding.”

Carter is lucky. Many couples preparing for their wedding day find themselves between a rock and a hard place by trying to please their parents, siblings, friends, grandparents and others who have an opinion on how the wedding should go. One bride’s mother refused to help because her daughter preferred a small and intimate wedding instead of a large formal affair.

Most experts agree that planning for a wedding is something most brides and their moms look forward to. Things can get a bit sticky, though. But don’t fear; there are some things you can do to help avert bitter feelings.

First and foremost, this is your day. Others may give their opinion about how things should go, but ultimately the bride and groom get to have the final say.

“We are probably different than most couples because we were more concerned about doing it the way that made us comfortable instead of being so concerned with stepping on toes,” says Rebecca Smith. “We set the rules early.

“There were certain things that I really didn’t care about, like the flowers. When my mom asked me what I wanted, I told her whatever she picked out would be fine. For us the overriding theme was we are incredibly excited about being married. We don’t want our focus on the wedding to be more than our focus on our marriage.”

At some point during the planning process, Rebecca and her fiancé acknowledged that something could go wrong. They eventually realized it really didn’t matter because they would still be married. They didn’t pursue a perfect production.

According to the experts, the Smiths would get an “A” in wedding planning.

Here are some additional tips to help you survive wedding planning:

  • Decide what matters most to you. You can’t give 100 percent of your attention to everything, so decide where you want to focus and delegate the other things. This is a great way to involve family members without feeling like they are trying to control your day.
  • Decide on a realistic budget. Although the average wedding today costs between $20,000 – $25,000, couples can have a beautiful wedding for significantly less money. Since money is the top area of conflict for couples, one way to begin your marriage well is to be realistic about your finances. Know what you and your family can comfortably afford. The amount of money spent is not a determining factor in the success of your marriage.
  • Plan for your marriage. It is easy to get so caught up in your wedding planning that you neglect to plan for your marriage – all those days after the wedding. Take time out to attend premarital education classes or a marriage seminar. Read a good book together, like Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce or Before “I Do”: Preparing for the Full Marriage ExperienceYour marriage will be stronger if go into it with your eyes wide open.
  • Enjoy this time. Even though the preparation may be a bit stressful, schedule your time so you can truly enjoy these special moments. For many, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Instead of looking back at a whirlwind of activity that you really don’t remember, take non-essential things off the calendar. Rest adequately, eat well and don’t let others steal your joy.

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Everywhere you turn these days it seems everybody is talking about the economy and its impact. Financial experts often discuss the dangers of people living beyond their means, and it seems that many are reaping the consequences of doing so. But despite the financial woes, is it all bad?

Clearly families are getting hit hard. Studies indicate that for years now, close to 43 percent of American families have spent more than they earned, buying anything they wanted. Now, they are being forced to rethink their spending habits – and it is incredibly painful.

Research shows that although money is not the number one thing couples consider when planning to marry, it is the number one thing they argue about.

Instead of being happily married, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills.

An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on their credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15,609 in credit card debt.

When it comes to spending money, the temptations are plentiful – shiny new cars with the latest gadgets, flat screen televisions, traveling sports leagues, private schools, a new house, surround sound systems, trendy clothing, iPhones – and the list goes on.

Believer it or not, emotions typically drive spending decisions instead of affordability. 

When it comes to money, a lot can be said about the value of self-discipline and saving to purchase certain items or participate in an activity.

People often complain that family members are like ships passing in the night because of busyness. Maybe the upside of an uncertain economy is that people might step back and evaluate what really matters.

When asked what is most important in life, people consistently say “family” is the single most important priority; yet their lives indicate that money and things are number one.

These ideas can help you make family a higher priority than money.

  • Focus on building strong, healthy relationships instead of empires. Children spell love T-I-M-E, not T-H-I-N-G-S. There is no downside to living within your means – both financially and time-wise. It could actually mean less stress, more family time, less maintenance, more downtime, fewer arguments and stronger relationships.
  • Evaluate all of your family activities. Find ways to exercise together, not apart. Exchange gym fees, travel sports and golfing alone to play with the family instead. Instead of paying to play, choose free family hobbies like playing tennis, biking or hiking. It will save you money and time.
  • Learn how to control your finances instead of letting them control you. Many people believe that more money, a bigger house, and tons of toys are necessary for happiness. Money and toys are no substitute for time, so spend time with the people you love.
  • Look for opportunities to encourage your loved ones and affirm them as a person worthy of your love.

When you look back on an economic crisis, perhaps you will see that less of some things is more of the best things. You may also see that many of the best things in life truly are free.

Image from Unsplash.com

For a group of people who typically don’t have full-time jobs, teens certainly have a lot of money to spend. In 2014, MarketingVox/Rand Research Centers found that roughly 41 million kids ages 10-19 in the United States spend $258.7 billion annually. They spend it on everything from fashion to electronics, but where do they get their money? And, is it a good thing?

It seems like more teens than ever before have part-time jobs that keep money in their pockets,” said Tracy Johnson, educational specialist with Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga. “Either they are working or their parents give them money. Regardless, what we are seeing is many people spending huge amounts of money, yet they really don’t know how to manage what they have.”

Parents should start teaching children about money early on.

“Money is associated with power,” Johnson said. “If we don’t teach children how to handle that power appropriately by managing their money, they can end up being a slave to it. Giving your child an allowance is an easy way to help your child begin to grasp money management skills. As your child gets older and the amount of money increases, you can teach them new skills.”

By the time your teen graduates from high school, he/she should know how to build a budget and live within it. Teens should also know how to balance a checkbook, put money in savings and have an idea about home maintenance costs.

In order to teach these skills, Johnson recommends the following:

Don’t give your teen things like a car or a cell phone without teaching them about the costs associated with them.

Insurance, gas, tires and 3,000 mile tune-ups all cost money. Most young people only think about getting the car and putting gas in it or getting a cell phone and using it. What happens when your teen goes over their limits on the phone or racks up a huge bill?

Teach your teen about credit cards. 

Teens often see parents use credit cards to buy everything from groceries to gas, but they never see them pay the bill. No wonder they think money grows on trees! Credit card companies target teens, especially when they are away at college. It’s hard to walk away from a $2,000 credit limit when you don’t have to pay anything up front. If your teen maxes out the card at $2,000, doesn’t charge anything else on the card but starts paying back the $40 minimum monthly payment at 21% interest, it will take 10-12 years to pay it off. At that point, your teen has paid $5,060 – more than double the original charge. Teens need to understand how to use credit wisely.

Teach your teen to spend less than he/she makes. 

Expenses should never exceed income. Many people say, “If I just had a little bit more, I would be fine.” But if you can’t make ends meet on $25,000, you won’t be able to make ends meet at $30,000. The more you make, the more you spend.

Delayed gratification is a good thing.

Teach your teen how to budget and save for the things he/she wants. It will mean more if they had to work for it.

If you don’t have great money management skills yourself…

Consider attending a free budget counseling session for your family at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga.

“There are many easy ways to teach teens about handling money,” Johnson said. “Instead of letting money burn a hole in their pocket, give them a good financial foundation before they leave the safety of your home.”

Image from Unsplash.com

A friend’s Facebook post that said expensive wedding rings lead to less marriage stability caught Randal Olson’s eye.

“My girlfriend and I had recently talked about wedding rings,” says Olson. “She said she did not want a big wedding ring. After reading the study, I was thankful. I am one semester away from graduating with a doctorate in computer science. My focus is on research so I don’t take things at face value. As I read the study (A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration), I ran across this huge table of many different factors that play a role in long-term marriage.”

Some of the findings make perfect sense to Olson, such as:

  • Couples who date three years or more before their engagement are 39 percent less likely to divorce.
  • The more money you and your spouse make, the less likely you are to ultimately file for divorce.
  • Couples who never go assemble for religious reason are two times more likely to divorce than regular attenders.

Other findings, however, took Olson by surprise.

“I was pretty shocked to see that the number of people who attend your wedding actually has a huge impact on long-term marital stability,” Olson says. “Couples who elope are 12.5 times more likely to divorce than couples who get married at a wedding with 200 plus people. The more I thought about this, the more it actually made sense. Having a large group of family and friends who are supportive of your marriage is vitally important to the long-term stability of your marriage.”

These findings surprised Olson, too:

  • There is a relationship between how much people spent on their wedding and their likelihood of divorcing. The findings suggest that perhaps the financial burden incurred by a lavish wedding leads to financial stress for the couple. Women who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding were 3.5 times more likely to divorce than their counterparts who spent less than half that.
  • The honeymoon matters! Couples who went on a honeymoon were 41 percent less likely to divorce.
  • A big difference in educational levels could lead to a higher hazard of divorce.
  • If looks and wealth are an important factor in your decision to marry a person, you are more likely to divorce down the road.

“Some of my friends read these findings and commented that they were in the bad categories. They asked me if their marriage was doomed,” Olson says. “The answer to that is no, but according to this research, statistically they are more likely to run into challenges. I believe the biggest takeaway for someone considering marriage like myself, is this isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts. However, this was a very large study and the findings are worthy of consideration to help couples have a more stable marriage.”

“I think planning is the key,” he shares. “It takes a lot of work to plan a wedding. Put that same amount of effort into planning for your marriage.

Do you ever wonder at the end of the month where in the world your hard-earned money went? It’s like money is falling out of a hole in your wallet!

Consider this: if you buy a cup of coffee for $1.96, one chicken biscuit for $1.99, and a $3 magazine, you’ve spent almost $10 at the drop of a hat.

“Little expenses really add up,” says Laura Coleman, personal financial educator with LFE Institute. “Most people don’t think about where their money is going. They make money and spend it, but they don’t have a system for managing it.”

Coleman worked with one couple living paycheck to paycheck. With five children and a sixth on the way, the couple’s goal was to live on one paycheck so she could be a stay-at-home mom. When Coleman started working with them, they had basically decided they had to have a second income.

“Money was causing a lot of conflicts and they had no idea what was happening with their finances,” Coleman shares. “They moved to a smaller home, lowering their monthly payment and got rid of a vehicle, but still needed two incomes. I worked with them to open communication and develop an overall strategy to find extra money and plug leaks. Within a short amount of time, we found $1,600. They were shocked.”

Coleman contends that two of the biggest issues for couples concerning money are different spending styles and lack of open communication.

When people don’t have control over their money and have no idea where it is going, they buy things they can’t afford, use their credit cards as part of their income, and there’s never anything left to save for the future.

“I have been helping people with their finances for many years, starting out as a mortgage originator,” Coleman says. “Our clients were buried in debt and struggling to pay their bills. What they needed was education and the skills to manage the money they had, not another loan. I wanted to provide solutions, not create more problems.”

As a financial coach, Coleman helps people develop a plan for managing their money. One of the first steps is to understand that spending is often a choice and as consumers we only have one chance to spend that dollar. A good way to understand how you (and others) would spend that dollar is through this Financial Would You Rather game from Annuity.org!

LFE’s “$1,000 Card” helps people ask the right questions to make smart choices and save money.

  • Did I plan to buy this?
  • If I have to pay cash do I still want it?
  • What will happen if I don’t buy this?
  • Do I need this or just want it?

The next step is to discuss financial goals.

“When people tell me they want to be financially successful I ask them to define success,” Coleman says. “One person might consider success being able to pay down their mortgage while their spouse defines success as having money in the bank. We work together to establish goals the whole family can get excited about.”

But there’s more! Once couples have common goals, Coleman teaches them strategies to stretch their paychecks, reduce debt, avoid financial traps and ease family conflicts over money. “Financial freedom comes from taking control of your finances,” Coleman asserts.

Image from Unsplash.com

How can you save money? The media often talks about the economy, and they usually say it will probably get worse before it gets better.

“Families are getting hit hard on the basics like gas and food,” says Debbie Brown, vice president of investments with Raymond James & Associates.

“Studies indicated that close to 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year. People have been so focused on buying what they want regardless of the terms. Now, they are forced to rethink how they spend money.”

An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15, 609 in credit card debt.

“When people make decisions about spending they often operate out of emotion instead of thinking through the decision,” Brown says. “I know people who purchase items based on what their next paycheck will be versus what they have in the bank. In this economy nothing is certain. I encourage families to take a hard look at their spending, to set priorities and a budget and to live within their means. With energy and food costs going up, this can truly be challenging.”

Brown says these ideas can help families save their money as much as possible:

  • Establish a family budget. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about the cost of living. Involve them in the process so they understand what it costs for electricity, water, cable, eating out, clothing, insurance, etc. Ask them to contribute ideas for ways family members can help conserve like turning off lights when leaving a room, carpooling or riding the bus.
  • Take your lunch. Instead of buying lunch at school and work, take your lunch. The Browns figured they could save at least $50 a week ($2,600 a year) by not eating out.
  • Be intentional about running errands. Think about where you need to go and whether or not you will be in the area for some other reason during the week.
  • Examine your cable options. You may be able to significantly reduce your fee by agreeing to fewer channels.
  • Buy your specialty coffee at the grocery store. Instead of spending $3.50 on a daily cup of coffee, get specialty coffee from the grocery store and brew it yourself for about 17 cents per cup.
  • Go through the drive through to cash a check. Paying ATM transaction fees can add up to some serious cash.
  • Don’t buy on impulse. Many times we see things we think we need, but the truth is we can live without it.

“So many people think of budgeting as a negative,” Brown says. “I think this is a great opportunity for parents to challenge their kids to see how far they can help make the family income go each month. Most young people have no idea how much it costs to fill up the gas tank or buy groceries, much less heat or cool a home.”

Image from Unsplash.com

It’s the one thing most people never get enough of. Many believe it is the key to happiness. People still argue over it, whether they have a lot of it or not enough of it to make ends meet. What is IT? It’s MONEY, of course.

Less than a month into his marriage, Roger Gibson, author of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money, found himself in a very precarious situation. He bought a truck without telling his wife.

He thought she would love his brand new green truck. But the moment he saw the look on her face as he pulled in the driveway, he knew “love” was not the word to describe her feelings. As he saw his wife speechless for the very first time, he began to realize exactly what he had done.

He thought to himself, “She is probably thinking, ‘How can anyone go out and buy a brand new truck without first talking with his wife?’” Gibson managed to create a financial situation in a few short minutes that put terrible stress on their relationship. In hindsight, he describes this as one of the most painful and embarrassing moments of his life.

Money is the number one reason for stress in many marriages.

And according to 2013 survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, financial issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces. This makes it the third leading cause of divorce.

“The money marathon in marriage often takes on the character of a race,” says Gibson. “At times, the pressure can become too intense and many couples want to throw in the towel and quit before the finish line. Many young couples break all the rules ‘to get it all’ in the beginning. Instead of experiencing happiness in their marriage, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills. They overload themselves with debt, which can cause the ‘ties that bind’ to snap and knock you off balance.”

Just as in a marathon, you can’t start out full blast or you’ll never make it. Instead, get a map of the route and learn to pace yourself so you can make it to the finish line. A great way to start that conversation is with a fun, lighthearted game! Check out this Financial Would You Rather from Annuity.org to get started.

Creating a spending plan is key for couples. Spending money is always more fun than saving. A plan’s purpose, however, is to strike a balance between the two.

Believe it or not, intimacy can be driven by personal finances.

Budgeting your money helps you think about your dreams for the future. It’s also a reflection of where you want to go. Instead of fighting because you don’t know where you want to go, the plan provides security and brings you together.

If you want to get a handle on your money and your stress in marriage, Gibson suggests that you:

  • Eliminate unnecessary debt.
  • Actively manage your finances.
  • Build an emergency account, a savings fund for short-term needs and a long-term savings plan.
  • Spend less than you make.
  • Stop impulsive spending.

“Prestige, people, possessions and pleasure: these are the things that drive us because that is how our culture drives us,” Gibson says. “Everything we do is a reflection of these four things. People who are fighting about money don’t have a proper perspective of what money is.

“Instead of viewing money as a means to accomplish a goal, they see it as a way to satisfy their immediate desires. Usually the result is that finances control us versus us controlling our finances. The way that you gain control is to make a plan and stick to it.”

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***