As written previously, I’d just gotten married. 

To me, it was an amazing feat. Years ago when I was in my 20s, I always thought how is it possible to save up for a house, a car, and especially a wedding. To me, each of them is already huge. Together, they seemed almost impossible. How in the world am I going to pull all of these off? I was stressed as I’m one who has a tendency to always look into the future. 

In between now and then, I do come across a diverse group of men. Some were married earlier in their 20s and the above riddle is non-existent as they’ve been resolved by their parents or in-laws. They are fortunate. To another extreme, I’d met some who aren’t confident due to financial instability. Also, there’s a group who achieved financial stability in their 30s-50s but failed to get married. 

So, if you happened to be in your 20s-30s, how do you “play your cards” right in striking a balance between money and love (relationship)?

And, what if you are like most men who aren’t born with financial wealth? Also, what if you’re like me, wanting to finance all these things by myself like a dude? Is that possible? Are there any methods or magic tricks to pull them off?

Here is my take. While I can share my thoughts and things that I’ve done on this stuff, please note that we’re all different in our upbringing and culture. So how I resolved this riddle is largely influenced as such. Hence, you could refer to what I did as a generic guide and feel free to adapt them to your circumstances. 

Why is it a Struggle to Men?

I believe there are 2 main reasons for this. 

First, you want to finance the wedding, the down payment of a house and all its associated costs like renovation, fittings & furnishing, and a car all in a relatively short period of time (1-2 years). Imagine a wedding costs RM 100-200k, a down payment and its transaction costs of a RM 700k house is RM 100k, renovation + furnishing + furniture may cost RM 100k, and the down payment of a new car is RM 5k-20k, depending on what car you choose. You’re looking to raise 6-figures (RM 100-300k) in 1-2 years. Of course, you’ll feel stressful if your income (when you’re below 5 years into your career) is not high. 

Second, the riddle: house, car and wedding is not really a money problem but is an issue of expectations and communication. As a man, you want to contribute. You hate to disappoint, especially to your wife-to-be. Now talking of a wedding, there are usually 6 key persons that have a major stake in this: You, your spouse (fiancee), your parents and her parents. Everyone has their expectations. This is not an easy situation especially when some (including you) have to sacrifice the expectations of some people. 

What’s My Magic Trick to This?

Here is a list of tricks that I deployed to pull these stunts off: 

First, in my 20s, I was aware of this situation. I saw my “iceberg” way ahead. So, instead of only thinking about the above when my time comes, I chose to begin early. Rather than financing all 3 stunts in 1-2 years, which is stressful, I decided it is better to chew an elephant one bite at a time. I purchased my house during my singlehood years (before I even knew my wife). I drove my dad’s car as I was intentional in building wealth (marriage fund). 

The car could come later unless you think a car can add to your “manhood” and thus, attractiveness to ladies. Maybe la. But, it is not the case for me as my wife and I dated and she knew that I don’t have a car. I purchased a car last year as a possible replacement to my dad’s aging car. This is years after I had purchased 2 properties. In many ways, real estate can buy us cars when purchased right. For now, the first part of my magic trick is as follows: 

1. Be aware of the impending “iceberg”.

2. Spread it out to 5-10 years (not funding everything in 1-2 years). 

3. Buy Income-Productive Real Estate first (especially when I was single). 

4. Rent them out (rental income to pay interests). 

5. Buy a car after owning real estate. 

From them, I don’t need to be like Ip Man, fighting 4 Japanese Karate Black-Belt exponents at a single time. I focus on tackling 1 issue at a single time. My house comes first. Then, my wife and I work on our wedding. In the meanwhile, I have already prepared funds for the new second-hand car. This allows me to work on each issue more optimally and effectively. 

What if I’m Still Short of Funds?

Should I borrow? Nope. 

Always remember. A wedding is for a moment. A marriage is for a lifetime. It’s a good thing to start our marriage on the right foot without “wedding debts”. The worst way to begin is to have loads of debts. So, in times like this, keep cool and avoid borrowing. Make sure your emotions are intact. 

A shortage of funds is a common situation. I faced it. So did many people. Here, supposedly you could afford RM 50k in wedding costs. But what is expected will cost you RM 100k. So what do you do? What I did was to compromise on things which are less important to our wedding. Cut those budgets. This requires us as men to toughen up, communicate and be decisive. It’s not sensible to get a nice and glorious set of banners for your wedding with borrowed money. 

Don’t buy “face” with debt. 

You may ask: “What if my other-half is not happy?”. I would say that could be “a possibility”. You are a man, not God Almighty. But really, if your wife-to-be loves and wants the best for you, she wouldn’t want you to be a slave to debt. Here, I would say that it’s wise for her to take care of your wallet because she will have a stake in your financial wellbeing. A lady who understands this is smart. For us, our part is our attitude. We have to be sincere in doing our best. Hence: 

1. Don’t borrow. 

2. Short of funds is normal. Better to be upfront than to hide. 

3. List down the 3 musts in your wedding and focus your fundings on that. 

4. Compromise on others that are just merely “good-to-have”. 

5. A smart woman takes care of you financially & emotionally. 

Conclusion: The Solution to This Riddle

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the riddle. What has worked for me could serve as a guide. But, if you’re now in your 20s and saw your iceberg coming, to me, it is advantageous for you to start preparing now. Here’s a list that you may consider: 

1. Start now even if you’re still single. 

2. Spread them out across 5-10 years (not 1-2 years). 

3. Invest in 1-2 affordable income-producing property (build equity). 

4. Buy a cheap car if possible (save on value depreciation + car loan interests).

5. Manage wedding budget expectations. Don’t borrow at all costs. 

6. Focus on the top 3 essentials / priorities. Fund that. Cut others. 

7. Win over people by being sincere. Positive attitude counts. 

8. The above is best tackled as a team (you and your wife). 

If you happen to have similar stories, which could help fellow Malaysian men to overcome this riddle, please share them below:

Ian Tai
Ian Tai

Financial Content Machine. Dividend Investor. Produced 500+ Financial Articles featured in in Malaysia and the Fifth Person, Value Invest Asia, and Small Cap Asia in Singapore. Regular Host and Presenter of a Weekly Financial Webinar with Co-Founded, an online membership site that empowers retail investors to build a stock portfolio that pays rising dividends year after year in Malaysia and Singapore.

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