Season's Greetings and Happy New Year!

by Erica Starr 23. December 2015

As we near the end of 2015, we'd like to give an extra special thank you to our valued customers and friends. Your continued loyalty and support drives us to deliver the best personal service possible.

We wish you, your families and your friends a wonderful holiday season. Enjoy the eCard below, made especially for you!

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How to Talk to Your Spouse about Money

by Erica Starr 11. February 2015

Money in Marriage

They say that money can’t buy happiness. While that may be true, the topic of finances in relationships can often be the pace car in how far your relationship is going to sail or not sail into the sunset.

“Money problems” is still a front runner in the leading causes of divorce in the United States and has remained there for decades. A 2009 study found that couples who disagree over money once a week are 30% more likely to part ways than couples who have those same disagreements once a month. Knowing this, shouldn’t the “money talk” be a top priority for couples to have BEFORE taking the leap into marriage? Of course it should. That said, most people would rather go to the dentist every day for a year than divulge their financial bad habits.

Why you ask? Good question. Just like the visits to the dentist, 9 times out of 10 it ends up never being as bad as you thought it was going to be. Regardless of how much you hate the dentist, you know it’s something that you have to do. Having the money talk with your spouse should also be at the very top of your list of things you HAVE to do.

When you are ready to talk to spouse about money, here are a few tips to help you and your spouse get on the same page (read: a lot of Novocain or laughing gas in my dentist comparison).

Full Disclosure

You have to be completely open and honest with your spouse about your financial history and spending habits. They’ve voluntarily married you for better or for worse and that includes divulging any financial skeletons that either of you may have hiding in your closet. Ideally, there aren’t any post-marriage skeletons as this talk should happen before you say “I Do.” Once both of you are looking at your financial landscape with eyes wide open, it’s much easier to discuss future plans and tactics to reach your financial goals.

Goals - Make Them and Talk about Them

Before you can make an effective financial plan, you have to both agree on your end goals. You can each have your own personal goals, but there should be at least one overarching goal for your family budget. Be it paying off old debt or saving to put a down payment on a house, sharing similar goals can be very effective in building comradery and a teamwork approach as you make progress.


Most people get their financial personality from their parents. How they were raised to think about spending and saving often plays a big role in how they themselves will handle their finances. Even if you don’t agree with everything that you hear, having a talk about each other’s financial upbringing can bring a lot of perspective and understanding into the mix and perhaps help you avoid future arguments.

Set Up a Monthly Coffee Date (Reoccurring Account Review)

Okay it really isn’t a date but it’s a great way to make you think about a monthly financial planning session. See, coffee date sounds much better doesn’t it? Whether it’s at your local Starbucks or if it’s at your kitchen table, you and your spouse should set aside a mandatory reoccurring time to go through all of your finances and make sure you are still on track to reach your goals. Financial aggregators or Personal Finance Managers (PFMs) like Mariner360 are great free tools to use to give you an extremely accurate snapshot of where your money is actually going. (Personal Disclaimer: This can be an extremely scary process. No one should spend that much money on lattes in one year.) These PFMs also can help you both set up budgets and send you alerts when there has been unusual spending or you’re getting close to going over your preselected budget.

Don’t Judge, Don’t be Controlling, and Be Supportive

You are not going to agree on 100% of your goals. You’re most certainly not going to 100% agree on some of the past actions that may have put you or your spouse in a less than ideal financial situation. And that is 100% okay. If you start to go down the path of being overly controlling and placing blame when things get rocky, resentment could soon show its ugly face. As with most things in a marriage, it’s important to always aim to be supportive and not judge one another. As long as you both agree to pursue your joint goals together before pursing your personal goals, everyone will win.


If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

4 Financial Mistakes Newlyweds Make

I Do...But Maybe I Don't Want to Share My Money

Infographic: The Cost of Love

6 Tips to Financially Prepare for Your New Pregnancy

by Erica Starr 27. January 2015

Finances of Pregnancy

Your life will never be the same – and neither will your bank account. All the joys of parenthood that you are going to experience over the years unfortunately won’t come free. From the first day you find out that you’re expecting to the last payment you make towards college tuition, the dollars immediately start adding up

Whether or not your pregnancy was part of your grand life and/or financial plan, there are a few things you should start to think of to make sure you are as prepared as possible to bring your bundle of joy into the world.

Daycare - You'll be amazed at the cost

If you are able to have a family member or friend help take care of your little one while you are at work, consider yourself extremely lucky. According to the Maryland Family Network, the average cost of daycare in Maryland is $238 a week. That totals to $1031.33 a month and $12,376 a year. Compare that to the average cost of center-based daycare in the United States at $11,666 per year ($972 a month) (National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies) and you’re practically looking at a mortgage payment.

Health Insurance - What exactly is covered by your current plan?

Find out what health services you are covered for, ideally before or during pregnancy. Different health care plans are set up to cover different life events and preventative care services such as prenatal visits, prenatal vitamins, sonograms etc. Once you find out that you are pregnant, finding out your health care options should be number one on your list. If you find that you need to adjust your plan, be sure that you also find out when your open enrollment period is as most plans will only allow for adjustments during that time. If you miss your window, you could be out of luck.

Maternity and/or Paternity Leave - Does your employer offer it?

Maternity leave and paternity leave is the time off work that parents typically take after the birth of a child. While maternity leave (for mothers) is more common, some employers are now offering paternity leave for fathers to have some time at home with their newborn child. While it’s common, not all employers offer this benefit to their employees and are under no requirement for this leave to be paid time off. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law which requires certain employers, including the State of Maryland, to grant job-protected leave to employees who meet FMLA’s eligibility requirements. The law entitles eligible employees to an absence of up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. If your employer does not offer any type of paid maternity leave or short term disability, you may need to think about how you will cope with the decrease in income for those few weeks.

It's Time to Make a Will

Although no one likes to think about it, now that you are going to be a parent you need to start thinking about how your child will be cared for after you’re gone. Topics such as who will care for your child and what happens to your money and belongings if something unforeseen happens to you should be addressed in your will. If the unfortunate happens before you are able to set up your will, there is no telling what might happen to your money, house or child if there isn’t a spouse in the picture.

Update Your Beneficiary Information

Too often parents forget to update their beneficiary information when a child comes into the picture. While this may not seem like a big deal (especially if a spouse is listed as the current beneficiary), if something happens to you and your spouse, and your child is not listed as a beneficiary, all of your belongings, money, property and equity could be thrown into an estate. If an estate is required to be opened, your child may have to deal with any and all creditors, bill collectors or any other unpaid debt that you had accumulated.

Savings Plan / College Plan

Yep, we said it - college. Your baby hasn’t even seen the light of day yet and you already need to begin thinking about a starting a college savings plan. The state of Maryland offers several college savings plans including the Maryland Prepaid College Trust and the Maryland College Investment Plan. In addition to these plans, there are a variety of 529 plans and traditional savings plans that you can start investing in almost immediately.

While all of this may be overwhelming, having a baby is the most amazing thing that you’ll ever do in your life. While this list barely skims the surface on how your wallet feels about that, any parent will tell you over and over again, it’s worth every penny.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

The Importance of Reviewing Your Beneficiaries

4 Financial Mistakes Newlyweds Make

Money in Your 30s: Manage It, Don't Be Managed by It

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