Managing money is a major, albeit a less romantic part, of any marriage. It is one of the foremost topics that couples tend to argue about. In fact, not agreeing completely about finances is a top cause of marital distress that can potentially lead to divorce. Money will always be a part of your lives so you must learn to get along well enough to not let it do severe damage to your union. It is best to start having conversations about money when you are considering getting engaged.
But, if you haven’t, it isn’t too late!
Communication about money is critical. The fights that arise often come from underlying thoughts, beliefs, and values you bring into the marriage. Money can trigger people in strong ways, rendering it a challenging topic to talk about. One or both of you may feel inadequacy or shame about money. For example, imagine these scenarios: You grew up very poor but now you are wealthy, you have lost a significant amount investing in a pipe dream or your parents spent lavishly and drove the family into bankruptcy. You can imagine from these examples how attitudes and beliefs about money can impact you at any point in your life. It becomes even more glaring when you are expected to be on the same page as your spouse who may have entirely different life experiences!
However, money is a topic you simply can’t avoid. So, how should you discuss money without driving a wedge between you both?
Here are eight tips to help you have a successful money focused conversation:
1. Keeping emotions in check when discussing finances
Money is tied to feelings of safety and security. Tune into why you are getting emotional if you find yourself triggered. You should have several conversations about your money history and how you were impacted so that your partner can have a better understanding of where you are coming from.
When you sit down to talk about a money topic, do your best to stay rational and logical and not let these ghosts from your past take over.
2. Have a joint bank account, but consider separate as well
A joint account is necessary for all the common and shared household expenses. You may each contribute in proportion to what you are earning. Consider separate accounts and credit cards as well. This helps you each feel independent, trusted and some freedom of choice. It’s also great when you want to purchase gifts for each other!
3. Do the budgeting and record-keeping jointly
Budgeting and record keeping together will help you both have a clear and honest picture of the state of your finances. You can use a program or an app to do this, but, it really doesn’t matter. The point is to share this responsibility.
4. Decide on an amount for fun and recreation together
To keep your spark alive, you absolutely must do fun and novel activities together. Saving a small amount each week or every day will help you accomplish this. There should be no excuse for not being able to do the date night.
5. Figure out your money “type”
You probably have enough self- awareness to know if you are a saver or a spender.
What fun or frivolous thing do you spend a lot of money on? What do you think is a waste of money? Do you love to buy lavish gifts for others? Is spending money on someone a way to show your love? Take some time to figure out if you and your spouse have common ground, similarities, or differences in this regard. More importantly, discuss your underlying motivations for behaving the way you do with money.
6. Create money goals
Decide together what your money goals should be. But, make certain these goals are realistic and attainable. You should also break the long-term goals into short term ones. For instance, what do you need to do to retire by a certain age or send your kids to college? How can you start working towards those goals in small steps? Share responsibility for making these goals a reality.
7. Accept the fact that money will not buy happiness
We all need money for our basic needs and general life satisfaction. We know that not having money can create significant stress. But know that money does not buy love, health, or happiness. Some people are mega wealthy and miserable. Having a lot more money than you need will not make you a happier person inside. If you are unhappy, look for another reason because it may not be money. Money should also not be the only motivator in your life.
8. Talk regularly about the state of your finances
Talking about money can seem like one of most challenging and unromantic aspects of your married life together. However, not discussing this topic is sure to suck the romance out if real problems arise. Whether weekly or monthly, regular financial meetings between you both should be a priority. Talk about the status of your accounts, upcoming bills, how you are successfully meeting your goals and any new topics on the matter. These discussions will also help you both hold each other accountable.
Openly discussing finances is designed to prevent financial problems that could come between you and your spouse. It will, therefore, contribute to the success of your marriage. The discussion may even become heated. What’s crucial is the ability to have the dialog and reach some resolution together. Remember, infidelity isn't just about sexually cheating. It can also be about lying or withholding financial information from your spouse. Financial infidelity is a very real and painful situation.
You must also not be afraid to seek professional help from a financial counselor or accountant when the need arises. You may also wish to read books or take courses. Whatever it takes to education yourselves about personal finance is a sound idea. Money problems often boil down to an underlying communication problem that could have been easily prevented by having open conversations sooner rather than later.
Purchase from Amazon: Home Finances for Couples: Resolve Money Problems in Marriage and Learn Easy Steps to Manage your Family Budget by Leo Ostapiv or The Couple's Guide to Financial Compatibility: Avoid Fights about Spending and Saving--and Build a Happy and Secure Future Together by Jeff Motske