Let’s take two people with completely different lives, and have them meet. They like each other’s lives and want to build a singular life together. Now they have responsibilities like bills, a house, debts, and then throw in a kid just to see what happens. Sounds fun right? Marriage can be an awesome rollercoaster if done well.
Unfortunately, finances and money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce. A study from the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts says that it is responsible for 22% of all divorces. Divorce magazine even found it to be the leading cause of divorces. So many divorces that there is actually an institute for financial analysts that help divorcing couples. Consider these other marriage statistics:
- 90% of all people in Western cultures under the age of 50 will marry
- 40-50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce
- Subsequent marriages have even higher divorce rates
With finance being one of the leading causes of divorce, it is important early to build a strong financial foundation. While marriage may be tough, nothing worth doing is ever that easy. Marriage has been one of the best things that has happened for me. Throw in our kid, and our life is a whirlwind of hectic fun and cherished memories. Finance doesn’t have to be the divorce causing monster that it is if a couple spends time working on it.
Make having a healthy financial relationship a priority with these tips:
Be Honest with Debt:
My wife and I were honest in that we knew each other had debt. What we may not have known is how much each other had. Eventually, this became an issue that we had to talk about and fix. I also had some extra business expenses when I sold my restaurant that led to an eventual breaking point. We knew that we needed to get our shit together and be a team.
Tell your spouse or soon to be spouse everything, and be honest. It may not be pretty, but it will make things better in the end. There should be support and empathy, not judgement and anger. If you will both be a team and commit to the good times and tough money times, you will create a stronger bond.
Learn each other’s Money Profile:
Similar to a love language for money, it is wise to understand what make each other tick. My wife is super conservative and risk averse when it comes to debt, but enjoys an occasional shopping trip. I am fine with running a smaller bank account and love impromptu Starbucks trips.
We can help each other stop overspending if we need to. Maybe we make coffee in our French press instead of Starbucks. We now have a larger emergency fund to ease the stress on my wife. The theme of working together instead of against each other is important.
Set Clear Goals:
Communicate clearly what your goals are. We mentioned that taking two lives and blending them together is hard enough already. Talk openly about what the future looks like. Does someone want to have zero debt? Early retirement? What about having a $250,000 crumb crunching child?
Brainstorm over a bottle of wine about what you both want. Talk honestly and work together to have family goals. Not his and hers goals. This is how you become a strong family and not partners working for each other.
A couple that budgets together, stays together. I am sure I am not the first finance blogger to say this, but I will take credit for thinking of it on my own.
Have a dedicated time of the week to review purchases, make sure bills are paid, and that goals are still aligned. Sunday night is our time to enter expenses and look at the monthly budget. As long as you have a time, stick to it and make it a priority.
Periodically, also look at your long-term goals. Things change, and you want to make sure both you are on the same page. This is usually an ongoing conversation at our house, but every few months is good to check in with each other.
Read Also: How a Budget Changed my Life
Have Some Discretion:
Wait, Discretion? As in, don’t tell your spouse something?
Correct. What I mean by this is have a line item in your budget for each person for ‘discretionary’ spending. No questions asked spend as you please dollars. As long as it fits into the budget I think it is a healthy habit.
Our discretionary item changes depending on the month, usually $30-$40 each person per month. Just the other day my discretionary got charged with the $10 Starbucks card reload. Worth it. The point is to buy things that make you happy. While we don’t criticize each other for these purposes, my Lego purchases may occasionally garner a nice eye roll.
Money is still a tough thing to navigate in a marriage. There are bound to be ‘discussions’ or ‘heated exchanges’ that may flare up. That is fine, as long as you fight fair and don’t hurt the other person. The only ‘B’ word that you should use is budget, for example.
Explain your feelings (men too) and discuss how to change unhealthy behaviors. Don’t let these issues fester and create bigger problems down the road. The whole point of this team thing is to stand by each other and work together. Help each other see what is important and how to achieve your money goals.
Marriage really is a wonderful thing. I mean, I get to spend my life with my best friend and raise the coolest kid on the block. Financially, marriage can be great as well. I mean there are tax breaks, shared expenses, and two incomes to help reach our goals. Luckily, we keep money a more open topic around our house, and our stress levels have decreased because of it. We may not be perfect and have no money issues at all, but knowing we can discuss them is a huge relief.
Hopefully these tips can help make money a lesser burden on your marriage. Put them into practice and your marriage and money will thank you. Then you can get back to the fun activities that made you fall in love together.
What other tips do you have for married/together couples? Please let me know what you though of the article in the comments!