Shifting priorities upend traditional norms
The pandemic has forced couples to rethink their priorities. They had to slash guest lists, but parties became more personal. The focus shifted from throwing a big bash to marking a new chapter in a couple’s life with their nearest and dearest.
Lee says while cash gifts have become more common during the last decade and a half over standby items like blenders, dishes and towels, the pandemic has certainly sped up the process of normalizing it.
So far this year, the top cash registries on MyRegistry.com have been for honeymoon, down payment, home renovation, adventure and furniture funds.
Experts welcome the opportunity for couples
Lesley-Anne Scorgie, founder of MeVest, a financial coaching company in Toronto, says she isn’t surprised that couples may ask more for money.
“It has been brewing for years,” says Scorgie. “People want less stuff ... Case in point, I have three cheese boards, still in boxes, from when I got married.”
Cash, on the other hand, is not only useful for the recipients, it’s also incredibly easy for the gifter, Scorgie says.
Carl Spiess, a retired financial advisor in Toronto, attended two weddings over the summer that the pandemic had delayed. Both couples asked for cash, which he was happy to supply.
“I was very happy for the direction,” says Spiess. “I'm really happy that these people are getting married and know what they want and are not falling prey to tradition, but are doing what’s going to be right and needed in their new lives.”
But donning his advisor cap, he would like to see couples spend that money with intention. These types of windfalls are rare and if used wisely, can help set that couple up for long-term success.
While Spiess says that wedding guests should give the money without any expectation for how the couple should spend it, the newlyweds will miss a rare opportunity if they fritter away the gift.
“There is the worry that the cash would be spent on a honeymoon that's a bit more luxurious than maybe they could or should have undertaken,” says Spiess. “And they come back, kind of back at square one, without having taken advantage of that windfall.”
Ideas to spend your wedding money
A couple’s plan for using that money should depend on where they stand financially, Spiess says.
If their budget is tight, putting it away in a tax-free savings account is a smart move. But if they’re doing well financially or hoping to save to buy a home one day, stashing it in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, or RRSP, for later in life or for a house down payment will be helpful.
Scorgie suggests using any windfall to help get yourself out of debt, while also saving for short- and long-term goals. However, couples should feel free to skim some off the top to celebrate their wedding.
But she cautions that everyone should continue to be careful with money until we’re clear of the pandemic and its unpredictable financial implications. So while it’s fine to plan a nice trip after the wedding, instead of Maui, maybe a “mini-moon” in your local lake district or wine country is a nice compromise.
Cash is the gift that keeps giving
Couples shouldn’t feel they have to spend the money immediately — especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic, Scorgie says. Work together to plan your future and figure out how that money can get you there.
“We know that couples who plan together, stay together,” says Scorgie.
As for guests who may be hesitant to give cash, your gift could be equally meaningful as fine crystal wine glasses that make an appearance every holiday.
“A nice influx of cash could help a couple actually get through their first year of being homeowners,” says Scorgie. “And that's a huge gift.”
Fine art as an investment
Stocks can be volatile, cryptos make big swings to either side, and even gold is not immune to the market’s ups and downs.
That’s why if you are looking for the ultimate hedge, it could be worthwhile to check out a real, but overlooked asset: fine art.
Contemporary artwork has outperformed the S&P 500 by a commanding 174% over the past 25 years, according to the Citi Global Art Market chart.
And it’s becoming a popular way to diversify because it’s a real physical asset with little correlation to the stock market.
On a scale of -1 to +1, with 0 representing no link at all, Citi found the correlation between contemporary art and the S&P 500 was just 0.12 during the past 25 years.
Earlier this year, Bank of America investment chief Michael Harnett singled out artwork as a sharp way to outperform over the next decade — due largely to the asset’s track record as an inflation hedge.
Investing in art by the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol used to be an option only for the ultrarich. But with a new investing platform, you can invest in iconic artworks just like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates do.