"It wasn't love at first sight," admits Candice Coppola. Instead, it was a case of opposites attracting for she and her husband, Mike. The differences that initially attracted the two were apparent when it came to planning for their future: Marriage was in the cards, though no date was set. "I was eager," Candice, 29, remembers. "Mike wanted to wait until he was financially able to get married. He also wanted to save up for my ring instead of financing it." The duo's different financial personalities were distinct. Says Mike, 33, "One of us is a spender; the other is more of a saver."
The couple's approaches to budgeting didn't quite meld either. "I came from a background where I didn't learn about financial tools," says Candice. "I learned them as I got older, with mistakes being made along the way. Mike was definitely taught how to manage money." That being said, Mike, an engineer, had a penchant for what he describes as high-ticket toys. "I started scaling that habit down in my mid-twenties," he points out.
Mike's strategy for saving? Placing money in hands-off accounts. "I know what bills I have and what I need to cover them," he says. "When there's extra money, I transfer it into either one of two credit union accounts or a savings account before it gets swallowed up." This tactic came in handy when he and Candice purchased a home together after dating for a year. "Mike bought the house," says Candice. "It was ours, but the deed, and the bills connected to it, were in his name."
It was co-owning a home that finally merged Candice and Mike's approaches to money. "That's when we started budgeting and financially planning together," says Mike. They decided to maintain independent bank accounts and divvied up which household bills each would cover. It's a direction the two have maintained since their 2009 marriage. What did change after their nuptials was the opening of a joint account. "Our larger bills are now paid through that account," says Mike.
With the new home purchased, there was still a savings plan in the works for Candice's engagement ring. In the meantime, another larger financial endeavor came their way. In 2007, Candice decided to open Jubilee Events, a wedding and events planning business. "As with anything Mike and I did, we did this together," says Candice. "He was a huge supporter and gave advice every step of the way." Luckily, Candice's business has been going strong since its inception. "There have been a few slow months, but I've always been consistent with covering my portion of the bills. I'm also fortunate that my husband has a dependable income."
Candice's new business unequivocally came in handy when Mike popped the question. Savings they'd put aside and generous contributions from their parents covered the costs of their August 2009 wedding. Where debt factored in, however, was their Sonoma honeymoon and subsequent credit card bills. "We decided to pay down our credit cards slowly," says Candice. Something Mike wasn't necessarily comfortable with. "I'm used to paying off credit card balances in full every month." But within a year, their credit card balance was back to zero.
Beyond opening a joint account, the newlyweds admit the financial routines they began once moving in together haven't really changed. They don't budget per se, and compromises have had to be made from time to time. "There are things we haven't been able to do," says Candice. "For example, we had a getaway planned that had to be scrapped when we needed new tires for the car." Though creating a budget isn't something the Coppolas do regularly, saving certainly is. Says Candice, "We save up for things we want and use our money to buy them."
Now that their honeymoon is paid off, the couple is looking towards future investments. "We'd love to move to a new house and start saving towards raising a family," says Candice. Adds Mike, "I'd like to pay off some bills, like car loans." With this in mind, they both agree they should set aside time to speak with their accountant and financial planner. In the meantime, Mike invests 10% of his income in a 401(k). "I also have other savings bundled in with my life insurance plan."
So after being married for almost two years, do the Coppolas feel richer or poorer? "I feel the same," says Candice. As for Mike, "The same," he starts. "Okay, well, before I got married I had a lot of money; now I have less money."
One thing the two definitely agree on is their mutual trust. "We talk about everything," says Candice, "and never make a decision without the other." One decision she says that's already in the works: "We both see the value in passing along financial tools to our children."
The Experts Weigh In
A definite plus for the Coppolas is the fact that they work with both an accountant and financial advisor, something Snyder says they should do often. "Make meeting with your financial planner and accountant a priority," she says. "Do it now, at least annually and concurrently with any life changes."
Snyder has other action steps the Coppolas should consider. "If you haven't done so already, consult a real estate attorney and review having the house titled house jointly."
As for getting into the habit of using credit cards to pay for expenses, Snyder offers words of caution. "Be careful using credit cards, and only use them if you have the ability to pay the balances off immediately. Nothing eats into current cash flow (and potential future savings) like the high interest charged on credit card balances."
Snyder also suggests the couple consult with an attorney and have wills drawn up. In addition, she advises Mike, "Carefully analyze the savings component of your life insurance plan. Often there are substantially better investment choices available."