Everyone has heard of couples who have decided to go their separate ways due to unresolved fights regarding money and debt. According to this article, money disagreements account for 22% of all divorces.
Money management in marriage is a big deal. Most marriage partners come from different financial backgrounds, and from different money management backgrounds. Without proper and thorough discussions regarding the management of household income, a couple’s financial situation can deviate from “optimal” to “disaster” very quickly.
Whether you’re contemplating marriage or have been married for years, you can take steps to help make sure that your financial life as a couple is healthy and strong. Here are 10 steps you can take that will help keep money from ruining your marriage and will help ensure your are managing money successfully in marriage.
10 Steps for Successful Money Management in Marriage
Have an Honest Talk About Your Individual Money Fears, Goals and Dreams
How each marriage partner views money has a huge impact on their spending habits, their savings habits and their overall view of what healthy money management looks like. By talking in-depth with your spouse about your individual money fears, goals and dreams, you can learn to empathize with each other and understand why your partner views money the way they do.
Once you’ve created an open and honest place for this type of discussion, and once you’ve learned to understand each other’s money fears and dreams, you’ve set a firm foundation on which you can create a financial plan that will help ensure financial stability throughout your marriage.
Figure Out What Type of a Money Management System Works Best
There are a variety of types of money management systems that couples use in marriage. Some couples throw everything into one big pot. Others have a “yours, mine and ours” system, while still others keep finances totally separate in marriage.
It’s vitally important that couples sit down together and determine what type of a money management system will work best for them as a couple. Because each couple is different, there’s no “one-system-fits-all” when it comes to marriage money management.
For instance, my husband and I throw all of our money into one bank account and manage it accordingly. My mom and step dad, having been previously burned financially via divorce, have separate bank accounts and one joint bank account in which they each put in their portion of money to cover the joint bills that need to be paid, such as the house payment and the utilities.
Although some statistics do show that couples who combine their money generally have more financial success, this is not always the optimum choice for every marriage. Therefore, it’s vital that you and your spouse sit down together to figure out which type of money management system will work best for your marriage.
Set up and Use a Budget
Setting up – and sticking to – a budget is vital to money success in marriage. It’s important that each marriage partner knows where the money is going each month and that both partners agree on how the money is being spent.
If there are gaps between how marriage partners want the money to be spent and how it’s actually being spent, a written budget and spend-tracking system will help you and your marriage partner modify spending until both spouses are happy with the budget arrangement.
Have Regular Money Discussions
It’s important for couples to have regular (weekly, bi-monthly or monthly) money discussions that talk about the previous month’s spending, the current debt load and the progress of financial goals. By sharing these numbers together as a couple, you can learn to manage money together as a team, thereby increasing financial management success.
Know Each Other’s Money Weaknesses
Nearly all people have money “weaknesses”. Due to past money lessons or childhood events, some people hoard money, some people spend it as soon as they get it, some people abhor debt while others embrace it.
By knowing and understanding you and your spouse’s money management weaknesses, you can work together to help each other overcome those weaknesses and build a solid financial house together.
Have Monthly Spending Allowances
I’m a firm believer in couples having what Deacon likes to call “girl/guy money” allowances each month. Allowing spouses to each have some play money every month gives marriage partners some financial freedom that allows them to spend some money without having to share every purchase detail with their spouse.
A key to success with monthly allowances is to be sure the monthly spending allowance amounts dictated in your budget are agreeable to both marriage partners.
Make a Yearly Plan for Your Money
Sitting down at the beginning of every year and making a year-long plan for money is another important ingredient to money success in marriage. Every January, spouses should set aside some time to take an overview of their current money situation, determine some 3, 6 and 12 month financial goals and calculate a plan to reach those goals. Regular money maintenance goes a long way in marriage success.
Get a Solid Retirement Plan in Place
A healthy marriage money plan should include solid retirement plans for both marriage partners. Each marriage partner should be taking advantage of their 401ks at work, and stay-at-home spouses or self-employed spouses should have retirement plans set up as well. A solid retirement plan for each marriage partner will ensure that both spouses are prepared financially for retirement no matter what life roadblocks may come.
Put Some Money Each Paycheck into Savings
A healthy money marriage plan also includes a solid savings and/or emergency fund account. By choosing to set aside a certain amount of money each paycheck – whether it be a percentage or a dollar amount – couples can be sure to have plenty of money set aside for financial emergencies or upcoming expenses.
Learn to Work out Money Disagreements Amicably
Fights about money rarely result in resolution of financial problems. This is why it’s vital that couples learn to “fight well” when it comes to money management and marriage in general. Here are some tips for solving disagreements amicably:
- Give each other time to share frustrations and choose to be a “listening” partner
- Work to share your frustrations from a “me” standpoint and not a “you” standpoint. In other words, instead of saying “You always do A, B or C!”, say “I feel scared when you waste money on A”
- Work to find compromising solutions that will resolve your money fights. For instance, if one partner likes to spend more than another, work together to set a monthly allowance budget for each partner that pleases both sides. Compromise is key to marriage success
Learning to manage money well in marriage does take time and effort; however when a couple chooses to keep working at managing money well together, their chances at financial success and marriage success in general increase exponentially.