Dear Dave,

In your opinion, what is the limit you can responsibly spend for a wedding if the people involved have debt?

— Paul

Dear Paul,

The cost of the average wedding in America rose to $32,641 last year. But when it comes to what you can reasonably afford, I think it becomes relative to exactly how much debt you have and what kind of income we’re talking about.

If you have $5,000 in debt but you make $150,000 a year, stop worrying, pay off your debt, and save up for a great wedding. If you make $28,000 a year but you have $30,000 in debt, then you need to have a really minimal wedding. Anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 would be reasonable in that kind of situation — and even then it’s going to be tight.

The more debt you have in relation to your income, the smaller your wedding expenses should be. A $32,000 wedding would be ridiculous for someone with a $28,000 income. But $28,000 is a below-average income, so you shouldn’t reasonably expect an average wedding in terms of cost. It really all boils down to ratios.

Just remember, Paul, the amount of money spent on the ceremony, reception and all that stuff isn’t what’s important. It’s the love that two people have for each other that makes the ceremony special and the marriage one that will last a lifetime!

— Dave

Dear Dave,

My mom is 95 years old, and she’s in amazing health. Financially speaking, she has about $150,000 in Certificates of Deposit, money market accounts, and savings bonds. Is there a better place she can invest her money?

— Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Certainly there are other investment vehicles that will make much more money than CDs, money markets and savings bonds. However, at your mom’s age people aren’t generally investing for the long haul, unless they’re investing it for their heirs.

If she’s comfortable with her finances, I’d suggest just leaving things alone. Don’t try to force her into something new. At her age, she may still have bad memories of the Great Depression and a negative perception of the stock market. In a case like that, mutual funds might make her fearful. I wouldn’t take the chance of robbing a 95-year-old lady of her peace to try and do the “proper” thing with money.

However, if she’s agreeable to the idea of doing a little better with her money, you could start by moving a little into growth stock or balanced stock mutual funds. But do something like this only if the change won’t upset her and leave her fretting over her money. What we want for your mom is financial peace.

— Dave

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