Being married to someone you love can bring stability and happiness into your life. Happy couples will tell you that it’s unlike pretty much anything else. On the flip side, though, a marriage can strangle you mentally if you handle it wrong. Money issues regularly rank at the top of arguments causes among couples in practically every study that’s been done. So, it pays (in your mind and in your wallet) to treat the issue of married finances with the respect and attention it deserves. Here are ten of the most important financial tips for married couples. I suggest you (and your spouse) do your best to follow as many as you can.
Figure Out Whether You Should Combine Finances
There’s really no right or wrong answer when it comes to how you should combine your finances. Some couples keep things completely separate. Some couples do the opposite, and combine to basically become a single financial entity. It really depends on your individual circumstances and what makes you comfortable. The important thing is to find a path that works for you both.
What you shouldn’t do though, is to just go down one path by yourself, without truly considering your partner. Do you want to keep more autonomy by having separate finances? Or would you rather have a joint account where everything is open and gives you the feeling that everything is shared? You might find that some sort of hybrid between those two extremes works the best (more on that later).
Find Time to Regularly Talk About Financial Issues
Many couples don’t spend enough time talking about money. Some don’t talk about it at all. As a result, things slip through the cracks. Debt can slowly pile up, as neither spouse seems to understand how the money comes and goes. Then resentment starts to build, which can quickly snowball into irreconcilable differences. Don’t kid yourself — money issues cause plenty of relationships to crumble.
So you need to commit to allocating to talk about your finances, together as a couple. This will give you a chance to talk about any issues or frustrations related to your money. It’ll also give you both a chance to offer suggestions. That way, any money issues can be tackled as a couple instead of individuals. Perhaps your partner knows some financial tips that can help you out — or vice versa. But neither of you will know if you don’t make time to talk about it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Disagree
When you do have your discussing, don’t be afraid to speak up. You and your partner probably won’t agree on how to spend every dollar. That’s okay. But remember to keep the conversation civil. Don’t let the fear of disagreements get in the way of making financial progress. If there’s a financial issue you really care about, the worst thing you can do is not communicate it to our partner. Whether it’s increased retirement savings or splurging on a new sports car, make sure you share your financial goals. Otherwise, you’ll start to feel resentment as your partner doesn’t seem to be helping you reach your goal.
Speaking of disagreements and frustrations, try to keep those critiques to your money meetings. If you’re trying to convince your spouse to be less wasteful with money, it really doesn’t help to be nagging them about it every single day. Instead, keep a mental note whenever you think they made a money mistake. Then address it in your next monthly money meeting. Once you’ve talked it out, let it rest when the meeting ends. Constant bickering over money won’t help anyone.
Don’t Expect Your Partner to Have the Same Financial DNA as You
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my kids, it’s that everyone is born with different inclinations. For example, if I give my daughter a bit of money, she saved it. She will spend days thinking about the best way to use her new funds. When I do the same with son, though, it’s a completely different story. He wouldn’t even see the bills before he immediately tried to spend them on whatever impulse buy he could come up with.
Some people are just born savers. Others are born spenders. Don’t expect everyone to be the same — including your partner. That’s why you need to look at the big picture. Don’t feel bad if your spouse views money differently than you. It’s not inherently a problem. In fact, you should celebrate it. Being a frugal super-saver can cause you to miss out on amazing experiences or good investment opportunities. And being financially frivolous is also damaging. Sometimes, a balance between the two is better.
Plan for a Family (If That’s Your Goal)
Having a family definitely won’t be the only financial goal the two of you have. However, I am putting this as a separate piece of advice because it’s such a significant impact on your lives — especially financially. Let’s cut to the chase. Kids are expensive. Like, really expensive. Sure, there are all the obvious expenses like a crib, car seat, stroller, cute onesies, or bottles. You may also need to think about the big picture expenses too, like a bigger house, moving to a neighbourhood with better schools, or a college fund.
If you see yourself starting (or expanding) your family in the future, you need to start planning for it as early as possible. Again, having a family will be a huge change to all aspects of your life. It might mean trading in your small coupe for an SUV or cancelling the annual tropical vacation. Your budget will need to adjust accordingly.
Commit to Sharing Financial Goals
Tackle each goal as a couple. It will give you a sense of togetherness. You’ll both get to experience the struggles and celebrate the triumphs together. In some ways, sharing goals seems fairly obvious for couples. However, it’s actually very common to have two adults — even married ones — not be on the same page. It might be a husband who can’t understand why his wife wants to get out of debt sooner. Or maybe it’s a wife not being on board with setting aside more money for retirement.
Work out any disagreements so you can commit to the same financial goals. That way, the both of you can encourage each other. It might make sense to compromise and work on two separate goals at the same time. That way, both partners feel like their concerns are being validated. So go ahead and focus on your debt, but chip in a bit more money to your retirement accounts at the same time. You and your spouse will both feel a sense of accomplishment as you reach your goals.
Share Financial Responsibilities
Speaking of sharing, it’s also important to make sure both partners share financial responsibilities. It’s only fair, right? However, the more important benefit of this financial tip for married couples is that helps both partners stay engaged in the overall budget. In many families, only one partner really worries about the money. They check the accounts and make sure the bills get paid. While things can hum along like this just fine for a while, it can lead to potential problems down the down.
You’ve probably heard sob stories about this before. You know, where one partner ends up financially devastated after a divorce or untimely death of their spouse, since they had no idea how the family finances worked. So stay on top of things with your spouse, even if they handle the bulk of the money dealings. That way if something unexpected happens, you’re not suddenly left in the dark. On a similar note, don’t forget how marriage will affect your taxes going forward. You both need to prepare for those potential changes.
Consider Keeping Small Separate Accounts
Even if you do decide to combine all your finances, I highly recommend setting separate checking accounts. It important to retain a bit of financial independence. You want to be able to buy some small things without having to check with your partner first. Or even worse, asking them for the money. Once all the necessary bills are paid (including servicing debt and putting some savings away), go ahead and allocate some discretionary spending money.
I’m pretty much the sole breadwinner for my family. However, my wife still has a separate checking account. I send it a reasonable amount of money regularly. That way, I won’t see every financial transaction she makes and be tempted to comment (more like criticize) on every spending decision she makes. After all, why worry how your partner spends money if all your shared financial goals are being met?
Be Open About Any Debt (or Future Obligations)
Trust is the pillar of any marriage. Being honest about your finances is one big step to building and maintaining that trust. Not many things will ruin an otherwise healthy marriage like the financial shock caused by one spouse hiding a bunch of debt. Ideally, you should have talked about these things long before you exchanged vows. Even if you didn’t, make sure you bring it up your regular money meetings.
Be open with your partner about all of your debt. Whether it’s old credit card debt, student loans, or even how much you still own on your car note, put it on the table. Talk about your plan to pay these debts off — even if you need to ask your partner for some help. Don’t be embarrassed by your debts, they are simply a part of life.
Don’t forget about your future obligations either. That might mean a college education for children or medical expenses for aging parents. While these expenses may not be set in stone, make sure to bring them up. You and your spouse need to prepare for them, at least mentally. Surprises aren’t always good.
Cherish the Relationship Above All Else
No matter what you do, don’t let money get in the way of your relationship. Yes, your finances are important. After all, we have a whole entire website devoted to helping being be smarter with their money. (Thanks for visiting us!) However, money isn’t everything. Don’t let financial disagreements tear your relationship apart. You may have to resolve some of your differences, but make sure it’s done with love.
When you do have disagreements, try to offer solutions that benefit everyone. Make compromises when you need to. Sure, your partners expensive handbag or sneaker habit might delay you being debt free or cause you to not max out your retirement funds every year. But that’s not the end of the world. Life is short, so remember to take the time (and the money) to enjoy it with your partner. Loosening the purse strings a little more often can be worth it — especially if your strict saving lifestyle is driving your spouse crazy.
Talk to each other regularly. Then come up with a plan that both of you can get behind. Otherwise, one spouse will secretly deviate from the plan to serve their own financial interests. That helps no one.
The Bottom Line
If you do the “money talk” right from the beginning, you’ll avoid plenty of future headaches. The good news is that you can always improve your situation, even if you started off on the wrong foot. Your overall financial picture is an ever-evolving thing. Sudden expenses will happen. So will promotions, windfalls, or career changes. You always have the ability to adjust your course to fix whatever problems you’re currently facing as a couple.
If you and your partner have never really talked money, then this article should be the inspiration to start. Schedule a time when neither of you will be distracted. Lay it all out on the table. Be honest and don’t keep secrets. You’ll be amazed at how tackling your finances together will improve your marriage. You’ll thank me one day.