Remember the first time you met your partner and had many in depth conversations about each other? What’s your favorite food? What’s your favorite color? What are your religious beliefs? How many kids do you hope to have? How many times in the early stages of your relationship did you discuss money? Many times we may avoid conversations that are uncomfortable or seem private. Money certainly can fall in this category.
The problem is many people are entering into serious commitments without having any conversations about money. This can make marriage or a commitment more challenging later on. You may suddenly realize you do not share the same values around money. According to a recent survey by Ramsey Solutions, money fights are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity. Results show that both high levels of debt and a lack of communication are major causes for the stress and anxiety surrounding household finances.
Here are a few tips to help get your marriage on the right financial track:
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Communication can be one of the key ingredients to any successful relationship. Communication in this case is not just referring to the ongoing conversations around money that you should be having on a regular basis but including some fact finding discussions. Each person has their own individual money personality that has been in the development stage from a very early age. It often takes some “aha” moments to realize that many of the money patterns we’ve created as adults have been shaped in one way or another from influences like parents, grandparents or other people we were close to when we were young.
Get to know each other’s money personality so you can better understand why they make the financial decisions they do. Ask questions like:
What are some of your observations on how your parents valued money?
Was money a source of conflict in your house?
Was money used for reward or punishment, control or survival?
What money conversations did (or didn’t) your parents have with you growing up?
By understanding our past we gain more control over changing behaviors and working together to better design the pattern we want to create for our money relationships with each other and our children.
Have monthly check-ins
Often times there’s one spouse/partner that handles bill paying and budgeting each month. This would be me in my relationship. I coordinate the incoming statements, track the auto payments, pay the bills that aren’t automatically deducted (like credit card bills for instance) and maintain a spreadsheet for account reconciliation. In our case, we have one joint account that our paychecks flow through for all of our expenses. Any personal spending we do is with cash/credit and is built into the budget each month. The pro is I get to control the system in its entirety. The con is my spouse is not directly involved with anything regarding our finances. He has no comprehension of what comes in or what goes out. Because of this, I find it to be extremely important to sit down with him on a regular basis to review our budget and discuss any upcoming expenses so he’s aware of how we are spending/saving our money. This takes it from being an individual job and makes it more of a team effort. It also makes him feel like he has a voice in the matter. We’ve been able to align our spending goals this way. It’s also important to not completely alienate one of you from the process. If something were to suddenly happen to the one in “control” it could leave your spouse/partner in a lurch, which can add to existing stressors.
Agree to Disagree at Times
Remember that part where I said we ALL have different money personalities? Well guess what, this can and will likely create conflict at one point or another. You may find that one of you prefers to spend and the other prefers to save. It’s important to have a balance between the two. You’ll find yourself having to compromise on things you may be uncomfortable with.
For instance my husband loves to buy his lunch every day. Because I pay the bills, I routinely see $10 charges for his daily “splurges”. It bugs me that he doesn’t take five extra minutes in the morning to pack his lunch. I’ve never understood it, but I reached a point of acceptance because he doesn’t spend extra money on anything else. I recently hired someone to clean our house one day each month. He couldn’t fathom spending money on that when we are fully capable of cleaning the house ourselves. We were able to compromise, and he agreed it gave us more time together as a family.
In other words, we will have these financial “things” that show up that we are individually passionate about that we feel make our lives easier and more complete. The more you talk about your values and differences with your partner, the less likely you’ll resent them for a financial decision you may not understand. It’s important to see the other perspective and just say OK sometimes assuming it won’t financially decimate you. This is what I like to call discretionary financial freedom. A way you can mitigate some of the tension is to have individual accounts your “fun” money goes into each month or simply give each other a cash budget. This way you don’t have to be part of everything your partner is spending their money on. It’s theirs to spend how they want.
Marriage requires a lot of give and take. The more open and honest you can be with each other the more opportunities you’ll have to grow together versus apart. This especially applies to the financial health of a marriage. It’s important to start practicing a healthy financial dynamic early on!