Money. The single greatest cause of marital strife. But it’s an unavoidable part of modern life. If you haven’t had a serious talk about money in your relationship, then the time to start is now.
Here’s the good news: while money woes can drive you apart, they can also bond you together. Talk together about your goals, your habits, your desires, and your plans. Being humble enough to accept advice from each other, and taking steps to serve and sacrifice for each other can deepen your relationship, set a good example for your kids, and help you avoid the biggest stresses of money.
Here are some ideas and guidance to help you prevent financial miscommunications and crises in your marriage throughout the future:
Have Certain Talks Ahead of Time
There are some discussions that you should have before you even get married. Discussing these subjects before the heat of the moment will help you understand each other better and prevent nasty surprises.
- Debt: Do either of you have outstanding debts? Which things are you comfortable with going into debt for? Do you have a plan for paying it off?
- Loaning out money: If someone in either of your families need money, are you comfortable helping them out? What restrictions or boundaries do you need to put on that kind of situation?
- Risk tolerance: When it comes to investing and finance, how much risk are you comfortable with? If one partner pushes it a lot farther than the other is okay with, it can cause a lot of strife and stress.
- Children: Are you planning to have children? How many? How much do you anticipate them being? How will you deal with large expenditures like medical bills or college funds?
- How you like to spend your money? When you have some extra to spend, what are your priorities?
- Merging accounts: Although many assume that when you get married, you merge bank accounts, it doesn’t have to be that way. Some couples are happier with individual accounts. If that’s the case for you and your partner, decide how you’ll deal with common expenses and which funds will be merged. How accountable will you be to each other about your respective accounts?
- Anticipate problems: What if one or both of you lose your job? What if medical bills stack up? Make sure that you’ve discussed it and opened a healthy dialogue ahead of time so that neither one of you feels scared or shameful about bringing it up later.
- Retirement planning: Are you currently saving up for retirement? What are your target goals?
Set a Budget Together
A lot of small fights, slights, and assumptions can be avoided if you make a plan together for how you would like to budget your money. Make sure that this budget is flexible, since one partner might have assumptions about how much certain categories cost, and the other might be used to allocating and spending differently. You should both have discretionary budgets as part of this plan. These will prevent micromanagement and the ever-stressful question, “Will she be mad if I buy myself a shake today?”
Remember, this budget shouldn’t be a vague idea. It should be a very specific plan that prioritizes monthly costs like insurance or rent, and savings. Set up a routine wherein you meet regularly. Some will need once-a-month meetings, some more, some less. Think of it as a quarterly report wherein you examine the state of your finances, discuss additional expenditures, and adjust as needed.
Now, in every marriage, there will come a time where one or both of you really want to spend money on a treat, like a bigger tv, or maybe a hot tub, or a vacation. Remember that larger expenditures like this shouldn’t be handled solo. Discuss it first. If you both decide on something you want to work toward, you can set a goal savings account.
Money Matters Should Be a Partnership
Most couples tend to have one person who takes the reigns on money matters. That’s fine, but remember that it should still be a partnership. Studies have found that when couples discuss finances together, they make much better money decisions. Additionally, consider that money can be a stressful responsibility when shouldered alone. Sharing the responsibility helps you be smarter, more confident, and strengthens your bond and trust in each other.
If one or both of you feel a little bit uncomfortable or uneducated in basic money matters, change that. Everyone needs to know the basics of investment portfolios, taxes, and budgeting, even if only one member of the couple is taking charge.
It’s Not Just About Money
When strife about financial issues comes up, most couples forget this important fact: it’s probably about more than money. Money can be tied to self-worth, confidence in the relationship, stress, and loneliness. Always discuss the underlying reasons behind certain behaviors related to money.
Never put money before your relationship, and when there’s a disagreement, bridge the gap with love. Give each other the reassurance and support that makes a relationship survive through the years, and pretty soon you’ll find that money isn’t as stressful as you made it out to be.