Expert Interview with Elle Martinez About Financial Health
Elle Martinez of CoupleMoney.com knows what it takes for couples to reach financial health. By working with each other and maintaining open communication, couples can ensure that they don’t spend more than they have so they can reduce debt.
Here, Martinez shares her knowledge of finances with readers.
Couple Money provides a unique concept for couples to live off of one income instead of two. Describe how and why you started this blog and how your life has changed since.
I wanted Couple Money to be a place online where couples could share money tips with one another, and also to discuss the realities of working together to reach their goals.
I believe that building up your marriage and net worth is possible. Money doesn’t have to be a source of stress.
It seems that many times couples get together and one half of the couple has less-than-stellar credit. What kind of advice do you offer in the situations?
I think the first step is to be up front and talk about it as a couple. There are various reasons why some people have the credit score they have.
Could it be one colossal mistake that they learned from, or is it a series of bad habits that have accumulated over the years? Diagnose the root of the problem, and come up with a plan to tackle it together.
Whether it’s a mortgage, auto loan, or student loan, it seems that many individuals have loans of some sort. What do you think the benefits are of loans? Why?
I think loans, like mortgages, can be beneficial because you are purchasing a place that at some point in the future you can own.
I think when couples take on a loan, they really need to run the numbers themselves to make sure they can pay it back within a reasonable time, and also have a buffer in their budget so they can achieve other financial goals like investing for retirement.
A planned and researched mortgage is a way for couples to acquire a house and keep their cash flow consistent.
If you could tell loan-seekers two things about the loan process, what would those two things be and why?
My two biggest tips would be: read everything carefully and do your own math. It’s your responsibility to pay it back, so make sure you’re able to do that. Try to be conservative and only take out a loan that you two could pay with one income.
We did that with our mortgage, and it has been fantastic. We have a place we love and enough cushion in our budget to still have fun and take care of our finances.
Learning to live off of one income and keeping a second income for fun times seems like a great idea, but could be hard to implement (or people might think it would be hard to implement). What tips do you offer people who think that it might not be possible for them?
For couples who are starting off, it’s not incredibly hard; in fact, it’s one of the best ways to set up your marriage for financial success.
However, if they’ve been married for some years and have become accustomed to a lifestyle, it can be challenging; so take it in bits. I’d rather they make changes incrementally and stick with them rather than make drastic changes and quit after a few months.
Start by looking at your budget and cutting back or eliminate all the low-hanging fruit, or bills you can reduce and not notice a big change. Then sit down and decide on how much you can cut back from there – perhaps 10% more.
Keep that system for awhile and then go from there until all your necessary bills (food, shelter, etc.) are able to be paid off under one income.
If you could offer couples three pieces of advice for achieving better financial health while still having fun with extra money, what would those things be?
Start off with your goals – I think the first thing couples need to address is exactly what they want to achieve with their money. Do they want to buy a house, travel, have kids, or start a business? Discussing these dreams can help couples to come up with a plan that both would want to support.
Automate your finances – Most couples I know are busy, and it can be difficult to constantly keep tabs on all of your accounts. One solution that has been a tremendous help for us is to automate our bills, savings, and investing. It gives us more time to focus on things we love, and we can spend the money that is in checking knowing that the essentials are taken care of.
Update each other regularly – Have money dates weekly or monthly and talk about your progress.
Please share a success story of a couple that lives off of one income and plays with the other. Feel free to use anonymity here.
Two that immediately came to my mind are Travis Pizel from Enemy of Debt and Brian from Debt Discipline. They and their wives were faced with mountains of debt; in fact, each of them had six figures!. After some work, both couples are now completely debt-free, and they have been working towards becoming financially independent.
There are many more, but those two stand out because they worked hard as couples to do a 180 on their finances while becoming better communicators in their marriage.
What do you think are some of the biggest problems with individuals seeking loans no matter what the reason may be?
I think the most dangerous is not to do their own homework. A loan can have big consequences on your finances, good or bad, so you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure you can handle it.
What do you think is one of the most pressing financial matters individuals and couples face today? Why?
I think most couples aren’t as prepared for emergencies as they should be. Many families are living paycheck to paycheck, so even a small hiccup can break their budget.
I suggest to couples that one of their first goals should be giving themselves a financial buffer to help them weather an emergency.
Please share anything else you would like individuals to know about Couple Money.
Because so many couples are pressed for time but still want to build up their marriages and net worth, I started the Couple Money Podcast. It’s completely free, and couples can listen to episodes that cover the money questions and problems they’re facing.
Follow CoupleMoney on Facebook.