By: Sheila Walkington, CFP
For many couples there is nothing that dampens love and or more than the subject of finances. In fact, study after study shows that money problems are the single biggest cause of relationship stress and divorce – with sex and raising kids rounding out the big three. But does money always have to represent tension and friction between your partner and yourself?
1. Start talking about what is important: The most likely reason couples fight about money is that they haven’t learned how to talk about money. When the subject does come up it is often the result of a conflict or crisis. Open up a dialogue with your partner – remember they are your ally not your enemy. You don’t have to agree on all your goals, but you do have to acknowledge and appreciate your loved one’s dreams and aspirations. Hopefully you will have some common goals, like retirement, but your individual goals are just as important to your emotional and financial health.
2. Build a financial plan around your goals: The process gives you a lot to talk about and the plan itself will guide you both down the same path. The key to a good marriage, I am told, is communication and communicating clearly about your current financial situation and your plans for the future is an integral part of that dialogue.
3. Spend and save your money to consistently support you both: That means you know, and agree to, how much money is for things that you both need (groceries for instance), how much is for common goals (travel and retirement), and how much you each can use for your individual goals (singing lessons or a new TV) and spending.
4. Stage your goals: You can’t do everything at once. If you only have $200 to put towards your goals each month, you may choose to allocate it all to one goal. Choosing to achieve one thing before another is ok as long as you both know when your turn will come, and you both work to stick to the plan.
5. Be a friend, don’t overspend: Don’t deprive your spouse by overspending or going into debt. If one person overdoes it, the other has less financial support to do what they want. And keep in mind, no one likes telling their spouse they shouldn’t have or do something – so don’t rely on your spouse to tell you when to stop spending – it just isn’t nice.
6. Don’t hide spending, savings, or feelings: A strong relationship is based on trust and open communication. You may not approach money the same way, but you can learn how your partner thinks about money by listening, and you can help them learn what matters to you by sharing. Talk. Build your trust, and your net worth, together.
The best way to avoid or avert a financial or relationship crisis is to take charge of your money and to work with your partner toward mutual goals. Working with a money coach or taking a money course will help you get the dialogue started.