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Examining the economy of matrimony

Money has been the downfall of many marriages, so more couples discuss their finances before saying ‘I do’

CRYSTAL LAKE – Ahead of their October wedding, Matt and Crystle Mariani cut back on date nights and going out with their friends.

The Crystal Lake couple are both planners, and they’re both savers.

“It’s easy to ... say, ‘OK, We want to get married; next we want to get a house,’ and now we’re continuing to do that and plan together for one day [when] we’ll want kids and we’ll want to go on vacation,” Crystle Mariani said, sitting on the couch in the home the two bought and moved into last month.

Arguments about finances early on in a marriage are the top predictor of whether a relationship will end in a divorce, according to a 2012 study by a Kansas State University researcher.

“Money is an emotional issue with most of us,” said Jim Issel, a financial consultant with Exemplar Financial Network. “You’re bringing together two people from two totally different backgrounds, and it’s important to talk about it. It’s also important for people entering their second or third marriages.”

Besides helping people plan for their retirements and advising on finances, Issel is Matt Mariani’s stepfather. Issel’s wife, Ann Mariani-Issel, is a vice president with Dorion-Gray Retirement Planning in Crystal Lake.

With both of his parents in the finance sector, Matt Mariani got plenty of advice on money management, though Mariani said most of it was learning through example.

They talked to him about preparing for retirement, saving, budgeting and being conservative with income, Issel said. The next conversation is life insurance.

While much of the Marianis’ financial planning is unspoken, more couples are coming clean about their finances before tying the knot, according to a Experian Consumer Services survey that compared couples married before and after 2008 and the recession.

“People are getting the issue that money is the No. 1 issue,” said Dan Blair, a counselor and owner of Blair Counseling and Mediation in Crystal Lake. “They frequently come to get help on that issue, and they don’t just come to counselors. They go to banks and look online.”

Finances have grown as an issue for Blair’s clients since 2008, he said, adding he typically sees three issues in this area: differing views on wants and needs, how to handle unexpected expenses, and a seeming inability to save money.

The heightened awareness around family finances caused by the recession may not be the only reason more recently married couples are talking about money before they get married.

For some of the Marianis’ friends, student loans are causing them to push back some next steps, including getting married or buying a home, they said.

While student loans weren’t as much of an issue for them, Matt and Crystle Mariani – Matt works for Centegra Hospital – Woodstock’s concussion and cardiac clinic and Crystle is a special education teacher at Cary Junior High – decided to rent until they felt comfortable and stable enough to take the next step and buy a home.

Now their focus is putting aside enough money to cover property taxes and household expenses because as first-time homeowners they don’t really know what to expect, Matt Mariani said.

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