Married couples don’t always see eye to eye on a lot of things – from what color to paint the dining room to how to spend household income. In fact, 40% to 50% of first marriages end in divorce.1 Forbes suggests that “…fights about money are the most precarious, because they’re the most common indicator of divorce down the line.”2
Money can ruin a marriage, but it certainly doesn’t have to. The keys are communication and cooperation. Working as a team, a married couple can build a nice nest egg for a very nice retirement – even if they have to get the kids through college!
When You Get Married You May Marry Debt
Getting married should be about “June,” “spoon,” “moon,” and all the wonderful reasons people opt to share their lives. However, the fact is that money is an important part of the relationship.
If you’ve been scrimping for years to buy a home, and your spouse has a stack of maxed-out credit cards: (1) you don’t have the same financial values; and (2) you may assume some or all of your spouse’s debt.
If you and your fiancé view finances from very different perspectives, chances are that money will be the basis of many “discussions” when the bills come due.
If you don’t talk about income, outgo, debt service, short- and long-term financial goals, problems can develop quickly. The way to avoid arguments over money is to talk about money – and where it should go each month.
There are fixed expenses that must be paid. Discretionary income can be saved, put back into the house, or used for a nice family vacation. Talking about how to use household income should be an exercise in cooperation. You may want to re-do the kitchen. Your spouse wants to vacation inEurope.
Find the compromise that leaves both spouses smiling. You may not get everything you want, but if you compromise, you will get some of what you want – and help keep your marriage on solid footing.
Signs That Money Might Be Creating Marital Stress
You don’t need a lot of research to determine that money is causing problems in your marriage. If you talk about it a lot, it’s probably a problem. If you disagree on how to spend it (or save it) you probably have a bigger problem.
Here are some signs that money management is stressing your marriage:
You keep hidden accounts. You have a credit card your spouse doesn’t know about. You have a savings account at another branch or another bank. You aren’t truthful about your debt and how much you owe. If your spouse doesn’t know all about your accounts, you may have a financial problem that can hurt your marriage.
You don’t set similar financial goals. You want to buy a family home, your spouse wants to start a business. Get on the same page early in your relationship. Talk about money management before marriage. It may not seem romantic, but a clear, honest discussion of money can create a marriage that lasts a lifetime.
You run out of money each month. If you can’t get through the month without charging something to a credit card, your income isn’t enough to meet your outgo. Go at your budget with a cleaver. No more restaurant dinners. No more movies. Any expense you can cut should be cut until you have enough household income to get through the month without getting yourself deeper in debt.
Sure, there may be a month here or there when an emergency comes up, but if running out of cash is a monthly thing, you need to fix it as soon as possible.
Only one spouse calls the financial shots. This opens the door for all kinds of martial problems: the blame game, the “I told you so” game, the “We can’t pay our bills” game. Once again, financial decisions should be made by both spouses, regardless of where the money comes from.
Calculate your fixed expenses. Determine how much discretionary income you have each month, and together, decide what to do with any extra cash.
You don’t have an emergency fund. Not having the cash to handle a financial emergency is stressful on any marriage. Build up an emergency fund and worry about solving the problem, not how you’ll pay to solve the problem.
Any of these sound familiar? They aren’t uncommon problems – problems that can, indeed, ruin a marriage.
If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, consider talking to your banker about what money management tools they offer to help you reach your financial goals. These professionals may have the financial solutions you and the family have been looking for.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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