Netflix asked: ‘Marriage or Mortgage’? Here’s what financial advisers say

What’s more important to you: a cool party or dipping into a hot housing market?

That’s the question Netflix’s recent show, Marriage or Mortgage, poses to a select few residents of Nashville, Tennessee.

In every episode, a couple has to choose: Put big money toward a wedding or a down payment?

But does framing this major decision as a choice between the practical and the romantic overlook other important financial considerations?

We asked some financial advisers how they’d guide you to choose between buying a home, throwing a wedding and everything else in between.

Here’s what they said.

How to make a responsible choicelelia_milaya / Twenty20

Deciding how to spend your savings, however much you have, can be an overwhelming process.

What Brent Weiss, the cofounder and chief evangelist at Facet Wealth, advises his clients when they’re facing a big decision is to step back and reframe the choice with three themes in mind:

  • What are your values? How does this decision fit into them?

  • What’s the bigger picture? Are there other goals you have that you’ve lost sight of?

  • Ignore the noise and get back to your values. Log off social media, forget the FOMO (fear of missing out) and get back to your values.

“One of the first assignments I give new clients is between meeting number one and meeting number two, I ask them to come back and define what success looks like to them if we’re sitting here three or five years from today.”

Usually, that uncovers a number of other priorities couples have overlooked when considering emotionally charged decisions, like buying a home or throwing a wedding.

What other financial priorities should you consider?89Stocker / Twenty20

In reality, neither buying a home nor throwing a wedding is necessarily a sound investment. Especially when you consider what you could do with tens of thousands of dollars by investing it.

Weiss ran the numbers: “Let’s assume a couple has spent $30,000 on their wedding. So I asked myself, ‘What if they did it for $15,000 and they took that other $15,000 and invested it?’ ”

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“If you assume a normal rate of return, it isn’t just $15,000, it’s actually $150,000 or $200,000 20 or 30 years down the road. That’s really what the money is really worth.”

With that in mind, we asked Weiss and Dan Demian, a financial adviser for Albert and Tom Mingone, an adviser with Equitable Advisors, about the other priorities you should consider before dropping dough on a wedding or a down payment.

An emergency fund

Building an emergency fund is an essential first step.

Mingone says he generally recommends setting aside at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

And you’ll be better served by putting your money in a high-yield savings account, where it can continue to grow instead of just sitting in the bank.

Dealing with debtJulieK / Twenty20

“If you have any high interest debt like credit cards, you shouldn’t be rushing into any of those decisions, whether it’s pouring cash into a wedding or pouring cash into a down payment,” says Demian.

Especially as it comes to high-interest credit card balances, you should consider a lower-interest debt consolidation loan to help you knock out your balances.

And keep in mind that the lump sum you’d spend on your wedding or down payment could save you thousands of dollars in interest over the long term on other types of debts, too.

“It could be worth it to take that extra cash you have on hand and knock down some student loan debt,” says Demian. “It’s going to free up more space in your budget and it’s actually going to help you save more money towards your goals later.”

Retirement

“Once credit cards are paid down and an emergency fund has been established, you can focus more heavily on long-term goals such as retirement,” says Mingone.

When you put money towards retirement, you’ll have compound interest on your side.

“That means if you start earlier, your money is going to be able to grow for a lot longer,” says Demian.

“Neglecting your retirement account and opting to splash on a party or buy a house when it’s not necessarily opportune is really going to reduce those compounding effects for you.”

How to have it all_AkG / Twenty20

Each of the advisers emphasized that it is possible to have it all. But it takes planning, a certain amount of sacrifice and some serious reflection about your values.

And if you need a little more room in your budget right now to accomplish all your financial goals, you have a few options.

  • Slash your insurance premiums. When was the last time you looked around for a better price on your auto insurance? If it’s been a while, it may be costing you more than $1,000 extra every year. Shop around to ensure you’re paying the best possible rate. And while you’re at it, use the same technique to save hundreds on health insurance, too.

  • Save like a pro. Even if you put yourself on a lean budget, you’ll still need to stock up on supplies every now and then. And when that time comes, use a free browser extension that will scour websites for the best prices and coupons so you’ll never overpay again.

  • Turn your pennies into a portfolio. Investing doesn’t require huge sums of money or fluency in Wall Street jargon. With one popular app, you can automatically invest your "spare change" without stretching your tight budget.