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Marriage is not a Financial Plan

Even in the age of #Girlboss and Lean In, little girls are still told that “prince charming” will come and sweep them off their feet, take care of things and life will be a happily-ever-after story. In this economy, they can’t afford to grow up believing that a “prince” (or anyone, for that matter) will someday come along and save her from every having to worry about anything ever again!

So how can you help prepare them for a life well lived, while still allowing them to dream? How do you model independence and still let them be little? There is nothing wrong with wanting life to be easier; we are all deserving of being the queens of our kingdoms.  But reality isn’t all sugar and spice and everything nice.

Here are a few reasons why girls need to be taught early that marrying a “prince” (aka marrying rich) isn’t a financial plan—and a few ideas for how to help her envision a future that she has a say in.

More Americans are single than ever before.

Just over 50% of the US adult population is single, which means your daughter might need help changing her definition of happily ever after right now. Even if her story does include a spouse someday, letting her stick her head in the sand about finances won’t help if she ends up with someone who is in deep debt or who hasn’t learned how to save. You can help her understand basic finance as an individual by taking her grocery shopping with you, showing her your household budget, and how you decide what you buy and what you don’t. It also might be helpful to let your girl know that financial responsibility in a relationship is on both parties—and show her how you and your partner, if you have one, share the burden.

Women need to plan for the unexpected.

Happy relationships can be hit abruptly by illness and accidents. As cynical as it sounds, you should always be prepared for the worst case scenario, as hospital treatments, long-term illness and end-of-life planning can drain your finances quickly, leaving you short on cash and savings. Women are more likely to have less money saved for retirement and often outlive men by several years. Teaching your daughter now to invest or save even small amounts wisely and plan for a “rainy day” (vs. saving for a wanted item) is one way to help her understand preparedness without scaring her about the future.

Money can’t buy happiness.

Even if your girl marries well (or is doing well financially on her own), money can cause stress in her life—a recent Today Show study revealed some of women’s biggest fears to be financial, whether they are financially dependent on someone else or not. Studies have also shown that arguments about money are one of the leading indicators and reasons for divorce in the United States.

Teaching your daughter today how to talk about money can help her be prepared to state her own values around money when she’s in relationship, and to compromise with a spouse down the road. It can also teach her to ask for what she needs in a work negotiation. Help your girl get a grasp on the things that make her happy in life, such as travel, time with friends, and family, so she’ll have a better framework for the kind of life she wants and what she’ll need to experience it.

Now is the time to help re-frame the narrative for our girls! She may be a little princess to you, but she should also know she has a voice and a choice in her financial future—whether someone shows up on a white horse or not.

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