Anyone who has ever decided to listen to the kids and go down that really pot-holey road for “funsies” only to end up waiting for a tow-truck to help you get unstuck from mud knows that there are non-financial decisions that can have a huge impact on your money situation. Besides those random (and oftentimes great memories – in retrospect) occurrences, you might be surprised at how much influence other choices also have over your debt, future earning potential, and retirement.
The financially successful tend to consider the potential impact of all decisions, including those that have nothing to do with money. There are many types of impact decisions, but the following are the top three that everyone should pay most attention to:
It goes without saying that marriage can have a significant effect on your finances. You might be a great investor, have your retirement all planned out, and you stick to your budget 100% of time; but a divorce can cost you half of your assets, and potentially have you making payments to your ex for the rest of your life.
Whether or not you’ve married a suitable partner is one of the most important factors in determining your financial situation later in life. Think about all the ways your spouse could alter your finances. From having poor credit to being a saver who balks and absolutely refuses to use credit to their advantage preferring cash which will limit your ability to get loans for children, healthcare or business later on. Staying married doesn’t necessarily result in financial success when one partner’s views on money vary wildly from one another.
Before getting married, do more than just consider your potential spouse’s spending habits and current debt. There are other factors to consider, too.
- Do you both want children?
- Are you both planning to work?
- What type of income is your potential spouse likely to generate?
- What is more important to your potential spouse, things or experiences? (Ask them: “If $5k dropped in your lap from nowhere, what would you do with it?” Listen to if it is bills, vacation, an item, savings, loan repayment, etc. and then don’t be shy to probe why they think that way. It’s a pretty good start to know how they think about money then be sure to tell them what you would do and don’t be afraid, if you disagree with their decision, to tell them and tell them why. Better to have these things out in the open before you get a work bonus, book that honeymoon you always wanted, and all heck breaks loose because she is angry you didn’t pay off a loan or put it into a college savings fund.)
- Will you have a pre-nup agreement?
- How will your estate planning be set up? Even before you start a family, it’s important especially if you are a real estate investor, to have this plan in place that can grow with you rather than wait and be blindsided later with severe pushback or worse, wait until an unexpected tragedy occurs and you are dealing with the nightmares of probate having nothing written down.
In today’s educational climate in the US, where you attend and what type of education you choose can have lasting impacts on your finances. While attending medical school is likely to result in a better income than majoring in English – the debt caused by medical school may mean you are paying off your student loans until you are 50 years old or more. Sometimes, even the highest paying educational degrees can actually be a wash with other options when you factor in the student loan debt and costs. Also, upper-income tax brackets don’t necessarily come with pursuing post-High School education as many real estate investors and entrepreneurs are aware.
Reflect on what you love to do, but avoid ignoring the economic implications. Think about how much your education will cost in terms of money and time. Also consider the demand for workers in your chosen field and the rapidly increasing inevitability of robotic automation replacing your chosen career field. While experts debate over how jobs will be created to attend the robots and AI, many worry about mass unemployment. There’s plenty of information available so doing some research that involves both your head and your heart is more than wise.
The cost of making a poor choice can be considerable. You may be miserable with your job, and then discover that you need to go back to graduate school to stay competitive. Your educational choices can affect your income, employment, and overall happiness so this is why we rate this in the top three.
Children are our future, they are bundles of energy, love and expansive potential. They are also incredibly expensive and will greatly impact your finances. Having one or more children can potentially mean the loss of income for several years. Financial priorities can also change when you have kids and waiting past prime fertility years greatly increases the medical costs associated with trying, having and then the after-case of children.
Despite the absolute joy, beauty and immense personal happiness that children bring, it can’t go unstated that there is less opportunity to save and invest for those who choose to have children. Think about the food, clothes, medical bills, and all other expenses associated with children.
The cost of higher education continues to rise. How much will a degree cost in the future? What about if you have three children? Parents need to think before they become parents about retirement, their goals, their ability to take care of themselves plus new humans.
Do what is best for you
Many decisions have financial implications, even if they may seem unrelated. Marriage, education, and children can potentially change your financial future in significant ways. Think about the effects these choices can have on your financial well-being.
Sometimes success isn’t about making the perfect choice, but rather about refraining from making a poor choice. Take the time to make informed decisions and don’t shy away from asking uncomfortable questions of potential mates and of yourself. They might be the greatest person you’ve met (so far) but if their idea of heaven is the two of you childless able to jet off spontaneously on time off at the last minute and your idea is watching grandkids chase the dog around with a sprinkler in the same house you raised your children – then you need to know that.
Proper planning ahead of time will mean you’ll be able to have the life you always wanted and afford to care for the people you love the way they deserve while still allowing you to live a life you feel is full, worthy and abundant.