Apr 13, 2010

Wedding bells chime but cost a few dimes

by Katie Marvel

Ring? Check. Date? Check. Bridesmaids? Check. Flowers? Check. Dress? Check. Apartments? Check. Diploma? Wait, a diploma?

Many young couples are getting married while still in college, which begs the question whether these students are financially stable enough to be married and still attend school.

According to the Liberty University Registrar’s Office, Liberty has 312 undergraduate students who are married. Most of these students are seniors about to receive their bachelor’s degrees.

There are a lot of financial issues that are facing couples today that have nothing to do with the cost of college tuition.
Couples have to find an affordable place to live and furnish their homes. They have to buy food, pay bills and go back and forth to work. Students also have tuition and other costs associated with school.

Students have debated the issue for many years. Fights go on in dorms every semester on whether it is a good idea to get married while the couple is still in school.

When asked about the choice of whether marriage is a good decision to make while in school, many students at Liberty said no. However, a lot of students said that it may work.
“I think the bottom line is, if a couple rushes into marriage without the means to support themselves, that is unwise. However, many people work and do school at the same time. I know several people that work, do school, and are married and are having the time of their lives,” junior Leisa Rozeboom said.

“There’s no set standard that works for everybody, but for marriage and college to work at the same time, the couple has to be mature and should have already mapped out their finances,” senior Blythe Alsbrook said.

Many couples have the maturity and the financial planning to make marriage work during school.

Matthew and Amanda Bixler met at Liberty and were married in May 2009. They have been living in Lynchburg while Amanda finishes her undergraduate degree and Matthew starts his master’s degree. They did not financially plan for their marriage after they were married — they started months before the big day.

“Before we got married, we both didn’t have jobs, so we saved up to pay for all expenses for four months, hoping that in that four months time God would provide Matthew with a full time job, and he did,” Amanda Bixler said.

To make their marriage successful, the Bixlers have a plan on how they spend and save their money.

“We really have a budget, but we use the first paycheck of the month to pay all the bills, and then we use the second paycheck to put 10 percent of the month’s income into savings and 10 percent to tithe. Then we try to live frugally and not spend the rest,” Amanda Bixler said.

Many couples like Matthew and Amanda can make their marriage work without professional help, but for couples that might need a little extra help planning their finances, financial planners are always there to help.

Wealth Manager for Huff, Stuart & Carlton in Forest, Va., Rick Huff, said that married students need to apply the 10/10/10/10/60 plan for their budgeting system.

This plan is a budget that takes the income of the couple and breaks it into percentages. The first four equal 40 percent of the couple’s income. This is for tithing, building up a cash reserve for short term needs, retirement plan funding — IRAs or work related living expenses — and saving for long term needs. The last 60 percent is for living expenses.

“If couples cannot live on an amount less than 60 percent of their net pay, they will get into trouble financially,” Huff said.

Most churches require couples to go through marriage counseling. Marriage counselors have experience in all parts of marriage and have been in the students’ shoes before. Couples should ask their counselors for advice on how to budget their money.

“There are many resources online and in Christian bookstores that help flesh out the manual part of putting together a spending plan (or) budget. I still fall back on items developed by Larry Burkett and Crown Financial Ministries,” Huff said.

Students who are engaged can start out successfully if they plan for their marriage before it happens.

Huff gave many tips for engaged couples that plan to get married before graduating.

“Engaged couples … should review their current financial status — what they own, owe, spending patterns, financial knowledge and what they believe the Lord expects of them individually and as a couple,” Huff said.

Liberty pole vaulter Justin Savini and Liberty softball player J’nae Jefferson met during their first week at Liberty and are getting married this summer. They have been getting help with their finances for quite some time through business partners.

“We are involved with a business team that endorses and markets for Amway Global, and we receive direct financial counsel from couples who are in life where we desire to be financially, and we listen and learn from people that are where we want to be financially,” Savini said.

Although students successfully make it through school while married, it can be a struggle. There are many costs that students do not foresee and that can hurt them.

According to Huff, there are nine basic needs for which a couple should save for. They include living costs, rent/housing costs, insurance costs, medical costs, transportation costs, schooling costs, and food.

Another thing that engaged couples need to think about months before the wedding is building a cash reserve so that when emergencies occur, they have money to fall back on. Emergencies for a cash reserve include car repairs, sickness, appliance repair and job loss. This is essential because emergencies happen, and they do not need to put a couple into debt, according to Huff.

If the couple does not talk about this on their own, a premarital counselor will most likely bring it up. Huff encourages students to take advantage of classes offered at churches for engaged couples.

Another important thing that a couple must decide who will be paying the bills.

“The couple should resolve to jointly determine their spending plan, then decide who should be responsible for the day to day financial operations, such as bill paying. (It) does not matter who actually does it, as long as both agree how and what should be done,” Huff said.

Huff then explained that the most important first step in getting a couple’s finances ready for marriage is handing the situation over the Lord.

“The next step is to formally turn over their lives as a couple, their possessions and resources for the Lord to use as He directs. When this is done, the financial issues are the Lord’s. Stress, worry and anxiety are eliminated,” Huff said.

Contact Katie Marvel at

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