When it comes right down to it, a marriage is also a financial merger, which often requires as much care and attention as the marriage itself. The joining of two people in matrimony also includes the joining of attitudes and values about money along with any money problems that existed prior to the marriage.
The failure to become fully aligned in the way money should be handled or to address any serious money issues early in or even before the marriage, often leads to irreparable harm to the marriage. Talking about money with your spouse, while it may not come naturally, is essential to a harmonious union.
Talking about money with your spouse, while it may not come naturally, is essential to a harmonious union.
Talking about money with your spouse, while it may not come naturally, is essential to a harmonious… Click To Tweet
Why Couples Don’t Talk About Money
Money and all of the issues that center on it is one of the top causes of divorce in the United States. At its root is the lack of honest and open communication between the two spouses, which is also a top cause of divorce. Money issues are the primary cause of stress for individuals. When two individuals bring money issues together in a marriage, the stress factors are compounded.
The lack of communication is could be a function of shame, not wanting to let the other spouse know how irresponsible you have been; it could also be a function of wanting to protect a spouse from stress; in some cases, it is due to outright deception – going around a spouses back or against their wishes. It can also be a function of simply not knowing how to broach the subject. Whatever the reason, it invariably leads to mistrust, resentment and more stress.
The Value of Honest and Open Money Discussions
Ideally, the money talk should occur before two people get married. It is the best opportunity to learn about each other’s values and beliefs about money and work towards addressing any issues that could later rock the marriage. If it doesn’t happen before the marriage, it needs to happen right after, especially before any major money decisions are made.
The earlier in the marriage two people can align themselves along money lines, the easier the discussions are.
However, it is never too late to begin the discussions.
If you’re not quite sure how to approach it, here are some helpful tips to get you started:
1) Have a Shared Vision
The best and most natural place to start is with a discussion of your goals – not just your financial goals, but your ambitions and your vision of a good life together. The more you can come together in your shared values, beliefs and attitudes about money, the easier it will be to make tough decisions together.
When you are clear about your shared goals and priorities, you will have more clarity and conviction in your decisions.
When you are clear about your shared goals and priorities, you will have more clarity and… Click To Tweet
2) Admit Your Shortcomings
Humans are fallible – we are all prone to making bad decisions. This is the time to admit your shortcomings.
- Do you spend impulsively?
- Are you likely to spend without regard to a budget?
- Do you tend to rack up debt?
- Are you lousy at saving money?
Encourage each other to talk about where you have gone wrong in the past and acknowledge the fact that it can’t continue if you are to live in harmony. Come to agreement on the financial practices you both will follow and pledge to support each other when either of you
Encourage each other to talk about where you have gone wrong in the past and acknowledge the fact that it can’t continue if you are to live in harmony. Come to agreement on the financial practices you both will follow and pledge to support each other when either of you makes a bad decision.
The honesty alone will bring you two closer together.
3) Plan Together
With a shared vision and mutual goals, it is important to build a formal plan around them. Having a formal plan for achieving your goals will keep you focused on what is important.
The plan should include a budget, a savings plan for short-term goals and an investment plan for long-term goals. It should also include contingencies for when things don’t go according to plan, including the creation of an emergency fund, life insurance and making sure you have the right property and casualty coverage.
A well-conceived plan can help both of you be more disciplined in your approach to money.
A well-conceived plan can help both of you be more disciplined in your approach to money. Click To Tweet
4) Talk about Debt
It’s not unusual for both spouses to bring their own share of debt to a marriage, especially if both are college graduates carrying student debt. However, more often than not, it is one of the spouses that has a bigger debt problem. The debt issue needs to be addressed right up front. If there is debt to be paid down, the two of you should develop a plan to do it together.
As an example, if one spouse has higher interest debt you should prioritize your monthly payments towards that loan. The two of you need to be closely aligned in your attitudes about debt and develop a family policy that dictates how debt will be used, if at all in the future.
5) Pair Financial Discussions with Date Nights
At the very least, you should have a regularly scheduled time, preferably each month, in which you discuss your budget and any money issues that need to be addressed. Use it as an opportunity to check your progress towards your goals, whether it is to pay off student debt or save for a home.
Celebrate your progress by ending your discussion with a nice dinner. More importantly, celebrate your financial harmony.
About the Author:
Jacob blogs over at Dollar Diligence where he writes about all things personal finance including student loans, credit cards, and building wealth.
Follow him for more personal finance advice @DollarDiligence.
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