Is there a better feeling than being in love? That question only has one obvious answer.
Falling head over heels for someone creates an incomparable adrenaline rush that science has long tried to but never completely decoded. We however know that it makes people giddy and joyous. It also makes them more confident, selfless, and empathetic. But it is also known to make people more irrational, distracted, and even ridiculous.
Unfortunately, that is a volatile combination of traits to have amplified when one needs to be at their wisest about a crucial ingredient in all successful romances—money. Trust us, nothing shows how much you love your significant other like being smart with your (and their) money. On the flip side, there are enough studies out there that show how (bad) finances are the leading cause of stress in relationships, and how money issues and arguments are the top predictors for divorces.
Here are some money must-dos that you need to take account of to be a financially secure and happy couple.
Talk & Talk More.
Yes, it may seem like a stressful and an utterly unromantic topic to broach early on, but having a mutual understanding of how to manage money is essential to long-lasting relationships.
We all deal differently with money, and its mostly shaped by our own past experiences. Talking honestly and openly about how to manage money helps overcome those differences. A recent study found that 74% of millennials discuss money weekly, and those who do, are much happier than those who do so less than every few months. Another found that 68% of financially sound couples described their communication over finances with their partners as “perfect” or “very good.”
Get Life Insurance. Period.
You remember when your parents kept taking out insurance policies and you scoffed at them for hanging on to something so old school when everyone was investing in stocks and properties?
Yes, that was your folly.
Life is unpredictable and whether or not your loved one is taken care of after you are gone should bear no discussion. Taking comprehensive life insurance cover is the single most vital financial move a couple can make.
“Life insurance is plan B when life has sudden unexpected twists and turns,” says Ashok Sardana, Managing Director at Continental Group International.
“People do not go broke by paying life insurance premiums; the families go broke because they did not have life insurance.”
Get protected against illness.
Taking out life insurance is not where it should end for couples. What you should also pay attention to is a scenario where you unexpectedly face a debilitating illness.
Citizens of the Gulf region are, unfortunately, at high risk of facing such unexpected illnesses. Countries like the UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia have incredibly high rates of diabetes and heart disease. Men and women in these countries need to be cognizant of this and invest in tools like critical illness policies, which offer an upfront, lump sum payout to the insured upon diagnosis. This ensures that all the effort can go towards the emotional, physical, and medical recovery of the affected individual and not towards any money worries.
Craft a Will. You Will Need It.
We know talking about something as morbid as death is probably not the most comfortable thing going into a relationship, but there is no getting away from it. You have to make sure that your property and possessions go to your loved one(s) and not leave it up to the law of the land you currently reside in. This is doubly important in the Gulf region, where it can get complicated between local laws and dominant expat populations. In the UAE, for example, inheritance for non-Muslim expats is guided by the law of the deceased’s home country, but in action, is left to the interpretation of local courts.
In case of no will, the courts use Shariah law for guidance. Under Shariah Law, a wife with children receives only one-eighth of the estate if there is no will, which would probably be contrary to the laws prevailing in your home country. A recent welcome change though has been the introduction of the new DIFC Wills and Probate Registry, which allows non-Muslim expats to ensure their assets pass on as per their wishes.
Get Debt Free. And Fast.
There is an old saying, which goes, “if you love somebody, pay off their debts.” Or something like that, we think.
In today’s day and age, most of us are coming into professional lives (and relationships) with some debt or the other. It may be an education loan you took to pay off that MBA, or the credit card your significant other maxed out on a holiday to the Maldives. However you two may have built up that debt, it will hinder you from reaching your financial waypoints.
According to figures from regional payment services provider Payfort, nearly half of the residents in the UAE are still in debt.
“A majority of the expats in the region fail to get into the habit of disciplined savings from the very beginning, which eventually leads them into a debt trap,” says Raunak Mehta, Manager-Advisory at Continental Group International.
According to him, a few simple ways to finish off outstanding debts are to refinance existing loans at lower interest rates; to avoid paying just the minimum on credit card bills; and to not indulge in impulsive shopping.
Start Investing Smart.
Outside of a Porsche, an investment plan that takes your ‘partnership’ to its long-term financial goals is the best gift you can give each other. Those goals could be multiple—sending the kids (if and when) off to an Ivy League university, buying a dream home, or just never-ending travel post-retirement. To do that though, you will need enablers such as financial planners who can help map out an investment plan that works best for you. Even so, there are some basic thumb rules.
Continental’s Mehta points to Warren Buffet’s sage advice of never putting all your eggs in one basket.
“The ideal asset allocation for every individual should be 40/40/20,” he says. “About 40% of your total assets should be long-term assets like property, bonds, etc., while another 40% should be in medium-term assets like stocks, mutual funds, etc.”
“And 20% of them should be short-term such as cash, gold, and recurring deposits.”
Save for the ‘Just In Case.’
Emergencies do not come politely with prior notice.
Every couple tends to go through some emergency situation or the other in their lifetime, be it job loss, an accident, or the very worst, a natural disaster. And when they do come, such situations tend to put an unbearable strain on the people in the relationship. A lack of money at such a juncture can only exacerbate the ordeal. Be smart and spare yourself the stress of having to live through an emergency without money.
“Creating an emergency fund should be the priority for all the expats in the region,” says Continental’s Mehta. “The ideal size of this fund for a family in which both the members are working should be nothing less than 3-6 months of their income. Having an adequate emergency fund in place ensures an individual doesn’t fall into the debt trap.”
Continental’s Sardana offers a simpler template.
“Before you receive your paycheck and are tempted to spend, save. First, save and then spend.”