Manila, Philippines – Do you ever stop and think about how much love is really worth?
From courtship to finally settling down, these life-changing romantic decisions can not only break your heart, they can also break the bank, said financial literacy advocate and Rock to Riches founder Burn Gutierrez. "We often ask, 'How can I mend a broken heart?' But after courtship, you'd also end up asking yourself, 'How can I mend a broken pocket?'" asked Gutierrez.
But for George Siy, president and CEO of beauty and wellness centers Marie France and Facial Care Centre, the most expensive yet the best investment you can have is your choice of a spouse. “He or she can potentially double or cut your assets in half, depending also if you decide to stay together or break apart,” Siy added.
Such nuggets of wisdom came from the pre-Valentines forum on Wednesday, called “Real Talk: How much money is love worth?” organized by financial comparison website eCompareMo.com and in cooperation with Kamuning Bakery Café. Here's what we learned.
The cost of courtship
“Courtship is expensive,” said Gutierrez, former bachelor and overseas Filipino worker. He cited different courtship scenarios and their corresponding costs:
• A date in a fancy restaurant can cost a typical employed bachelor in Manila around P1,000 ($21.07) to P5,000 ($105.35) for two people. If you do this monthly, this already translates to around P12,000 ($252.87) to P60,000 ($1,264.35) a year.
• A higher end bouquet of flowers can cost around P2,000 ($42.14). If you give her flowers monthly, and you end up courting her for 6 months, it would cost you P12,000 ($252.87)
• A 48-piece box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates costs around P700 ($14.75). If you send her this box of chocolates, it would cost you P4,200 ($88.50) by the end of a 6-month courtship.
• Watching movies in the cinemas together can cost you around P1,000 ($21.07) to P1,500 ($31.61), factoring in the tickets and the refreshments. If you do this together every month, it would cost you P6,000 ($126.42) to P9,000 ($189.57) by the end of your 6-month courtship.
Not to mention the changing cost of transportation—if you have a car, then you also have to factor in the changing gas prices and the maintenance cost of your vehicle.
In order to not break your pocket in pursuit of love, you have to be realistic, said Gutierrez. "You have to factor in your monthly salary in order to estimate your ‘courting expenses.’ Check the proportion—your ‘courting expenses’ shouldn't go beyond what you actually make in a month," he added.
The cost of settling down
While there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to a financial checklist before tying the knot, investment advocate and Pesos and Sense founder Aya Laraya said that you should check your financial health before settling down. “You need to be healthy coming into a marriage, and that includes your financial health. Can you support yourself? If not, then what makes you think that you can support another person?” Laraya said.
More than romantic compatibility, financial compatibility is also important to look at in a partner, added Laraya. “You should be able to talk about it before you make any financial decisions,” he added.
Coming into the marriage, each partner should disclose any unpaid debt or pending financial responsibilities, said Gutierrez. “Because, as a partner, you will end up shouldering the cost of those payments,” he added. If you already took out financial and insurance plans while you were still single, be ready to adjust them to make room for your partner and future children.
While you’d get a lot of “windfall money” on your wedding day, thanks to donations and gifts from friends and relatives, don’t get into debt because of the wedding itself, reminded Laraya.
A lot of Filipinos are willing to go into debt just to have a big wedding, because they treat it as a once in a lifetime occasion. "Then it takes the couple around 5 years to pay off that debt. With that, debt and finances already become the major stressors in the marriage from the beginning,” he explained.
Lastly, bring your families into the picture. “You have to let each of your families know of the financial changes that will happen once you get married. You don’t want your family to end up hating your spouse just because of money,” Laraya said.
Set financial limits for your family once you get married. “You have your own family already, so don’t let your relatives abuse your generosity,” said Gutierrez.
The cost of growing old together
Would love be enough to sustain a marriage through to old age and retirement? Of course not, said Siy. “Working hard also won’t cut it. You have to invest in stocks and real estate, in appreciating assets rather than depreciating assets,” he added, like houses and other real estate properties.
Siy reminded older generations to not always expect their children to take care of them. “If you can afford it, you should buy a house. You can buy a house and land with lower amortization rates now compared to 10 years ago,” he added, and noted that 2016 is a good time to buy a house due to economic slowdown.
Also, get the most basic life and medical insurance for you and your spouse. “It’s more expensive to get sick than to die,” quipped Siy.
Siy also reminded older couples to be wary of scams and other schemes. “Don’t buy jewelry as [an] investment, and don't get into schemes just because a friend invited you,” he added.
Being wise in love and money
More than the actual costs, experts concede that money management is usually what puts a rift between a husband and a wife. Who handles the money?
“Let the one who’s better at managing the finances be the one to handle it. Let it be a meritocracy. If neither of you know how to do it, then get professional help. Don’t let debt and finances become a stressor in the relationship,” said Laraya.
Gutierrez suggested that both partners take turns in managing their finances. “Talk about it, then take turns so that both of you can learn how to prioritize expenses and manage money,” he added.
However, do not let just one partner control all of the money, especially if you’re an OFW (overseas Filipino worker), said Gutierrez. “Always make it a joint account,” he added.
Overall, success in marriage and finances is all about communication and planning. “It really takes a lot of financial planning, but the real happiness is in knowing what is enough for you and your spouse,” said Siy.