3 Of The Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make And How To Approach Them | CNN

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There are some important conversations that financial activist Dasha Kennedy wishes she had with her ex-husband before they got married in their 20s. She says they didn’t discuss money matters before her marriage, and it wasn’t long before it started to affect them.

“I was getting away from what I had been taught on the surface: that it is a two-income household with two people working. I just thought that was a recipe for a financially sound home,” Kennedy said. “But we weren’t on the same page financially.”

She was divorced at 25, and the 16-month separation process saddled her with overwhelming debt, which she took years to pay off while working as an accountant. Kennedy, now 34, has begun a second career, creating an online community called The Broke Black Girl, where she coaches women on financial literacy and healthy money habits.

Not having key conversations and asking the right questions while making life-changing decisions like getting married, changing jobs and buying a home can lead to jumping before you’re ready, Kennedy said. Here’s what to consider before taking these big steps, according to experts.

Financial problems are among the most common reasons for stress in relationships and divorce, according to research, and Kennedy said that was certainly the case for her. She encourages couples to talk about things like debt, budgeting, and long-term financial goals well before marriage to mitigate financial stress later on.

“Couples should always discuss (their) expectations for five, 10, 20 years from now. It’s easy to ignore that when you’re young and getting married; you’re so excited about what’s in front of you,” Kennedy said. “But long-term goals make both people responsible. For example, a person may want to go back to school or stay home with the children. All of those things have an impact on a marriage.”

Of course, finances are not the only topic to discuss before the wedding day. Dr. George James, a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Philadelphia, encourages couples to express what they need from a partner, including expectations about communication style, family dynamics, and intimacy.

“What I encourage people to do is be assertive. Ask for what you want and need in your relationship. A lot of people just aren’t assertive,” James said.

James also recommended couples consider premarital counseling with a therapist. He said the process can help them become better communicators, which is key to a successful long-term relationship.

“You’re going to have some arguments, you’re going to have some tough times,” said James, who is married with two children. “But it’s also what builds the journey. When I think about my relationship with my wife, (the hard times) allowed us to have memories and building blocks that we can look at and say, ‘If we could do that and figure it out, I think we could. next time we will also have some obstacles.’”

Kennedy recently moved from St. Louis, Missouri, to Atlanta with her two children, and in an Instagram post, she called the move “easily one of the scariest, yet most rewarding things” she’s ever done. Although she is currently renting, she said that she plans to buy a house in a few years.

“My goal is to build a multigenerational home. I want a home that allows my mom, grandmother and kids to stay with me for as long as they need me,” Kennedy said.

There’s good reason for your patient approach: Homeownership means dealing with lots of big, and often unexpected, expenses. Higher-than-anticipated maintenance costs are among the top reasons two-thirds of homeowners experience buyer’s remorse, according to a 2021 Bankrate.com survey. Other top reasons for homebuyer’s remorse include location and mortgage rate.

To prepare for homeownership, Kennedy said it’s important to understand all the costs.

“You have to consider inspections, repairs, taxes, down payments… It’s much more than a mortgage payment,” he said.

Kennedy advises her clients to spend about 25% of their monthly income on their mortgage payment, leaving cash left over for bills, repairs and unexpected expenses. She also encourages people to keep a close eye on their credit score before approaching lenders for a home loan.

“Take an assessment of how you are currently managing your bills. Healthy habits allow lenders to see what kind of homeowner you will be,” Kennedy said. “That will definitely help you increase your chances of approval when trying to buy a home.”

And while there are many benefits to buying a home, Kennedy said there’s nothing wrong with renting.

“Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Most people see it as a financial investment. But it may not be for everyone. And that’s definitely okay,” she said.

When Kennedy decided to change careers in 2019, leaving her accounting job to run The Broke Black Girl full-time, she felt that sticking with the status quo was not an option.

You should always be looking for your next job, said JT O'Donnell, founder and CEO of the online career growth club Work It Daily.

“I think if I had stayed in that role, I would have taken a huge blow to my self-esteem. I was in a role that I was not fulfilling. I couldn’t really help people the way I wanted to help,” she said.

All jobs are temporary, so it’s important to know when it’s time to explore other options, said JT O’Donnell, founder and CEO of the online career growth club Work It Daily.

“I think the moment you start to wake up and that intrinsic motivation is no longer driving you, you need to sit down and ask yourself, what are you not happy about?” O’Donnell told CNN. “The mistake I see people make is they bury it… It affects your job, and the next thing you know you’re unhappy.”

The top reasons Gen Z and millennials cited for leaving their jobs were pay, burnout and feeling the workplace was detrimental to their mental health, according to Deloitte’s 2022 Gen Z and millennial survey. O’Donnell says it’s important to have a conversation with his manager if he feels there’s something that can be done to improve his situation at work.

“Or maybe you’re realizing, ‘Wow, this isn’t the right place for me or the right type of job for me,’” O’Donnell said. “That’s when it’s time to start looking for a new job.”

She encourages people to create an “interview wish list” before changing jobs by taking the following steps:

  • Step 1: “Find 10 companies that you respect and admire. Not that you’ve heard that they’re a great place to work, but really…you get that kind of warm, fuzzy feeling.”
  • Step 2: “Write down why (you admire them). Each of those companies earns a spot on your list because you love the product they sell, the service they provide, the customers they serve, or their approach. There’s something there that really speaks to you.”
  • Step 3: “Ask yourself where you learned (to admire them). That becomes vital, because where you learned from is where you got your intrinsic motivation to do this job and be connected to this firm.”
  • Stage 4: “Now, take a look at the patterns. Ten companies you admire and where you learned were important, better, different, whatever — that connection story. You will see patterns.”

O’Donnell said this exercise can help job seekers figure out what motivates them to work, increasing the chances they’ll be happy in their next role.

And changing jobs can also pay off, literally. Half of US workers who changed jobs between April 2021 and March 2022 experienced a 9.7% or more increase over their earnings the previous year, according to Pew Research.

“If you want to have a great career all your life, always look for a job,” O’Donnell said. “Look for companies that do things that matter to you.”

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