I know in your youth you are excited about everything. Seeing your friends in the hallway, seeing your friends in the street, passing that class and making it through one more semester.
When I was in college, I felt the same. I was also so overly excited by the prospect of getting engaged, getting married and “growing up.” Thankfully it took me a while to get there, but even now I see the myths that are expelled year after year without a warning label! I see some of my friends who got married young, lets say 19, 20, 21…are very happy. But theres a side that many people don’t discuss in Stern College, or discuss at all.
They need a class at Stern on money and what it costs to live after college. Forget the fact that graduating leaves one with tens of thousands of dollars in loans if they did not get help or scholarship, but it costs more to live with a husband then roommates. Food, rent, gas, and furniture is not included. Wedding money helps with these things, but a few thousand dollars doesn’t go as far as you think.
Then there’s travel expenses, for a car or bus. There’s doctors visits, shul membership, birth control, charity money, gym…coffee. Coffee adds up. It didn’t used to matter — but every coffee you buy could equal a meal on the table or an item at the grocery store.
I am 25 — one month shy of 26-years-old. Some of my friends have been married for years…struggling, I would assume. I wish I had waited even a few more months to put more savings away, to get a head start. If not to wait a few more months, even years. I think the pressure at Stern college is wildly inappropriate. Not everyone will have parents that can help, jobs lined up, or a trust fun in their name. When I was in Stern I assumed everyone was in the same boat as me: paying their phone bill, paying for their clothing, paying for life. I was given a strong work ethic and I am happy for that, but I wish I had known better. If you can’t wait a few months to get married, how do you expect to get married in the first place? There was a lot of pressure to get married as soon as you get engaged. Now I ask…why? Yes, engagement was stressful, but so is marriage. If you can’t work through it, however, are you ready?
After the wedding it’s you and your man/woman. You and the bills. The groceries. The laundry. The shlepping. It’s all romance and blessings until then. It’s fun, but stressful.
Another aspect not spoken about is change. Religiously, you may have discussed how you want to cover your hair, not wear pants, go to med school, not have kids, to have kids…
Roll with it. Just be aware that you may change too. And change is good. If you are stuck in one place…wouldn’t that make you a prisoner?
Some things to discuss before engagement:
1. How you will make ends meet?
2. What’s your budget? Ex: How much do you want to spend on Shabbat meals? Groceries?
3. Do you have health insurance? Do you have to pay for health insurance? Do you have school loans or plans to get another graduate degree?
4. Where do you want to live? How much will our rent be? Do you have savings? Do you have or need a car? When will you get a job? What is your financial plan?
5. Remember: no matter how much you love someone, you should also focus on your life needs and goals. You may be harboring feelings of infatuation and puppy love. This is wonderful! Hold on to that, but try and put things in perspective too.