Tips for Avoiding Marital Money Mistakes
A recent article in Marriage.com
stated that money was the number two reason for divorce, surpassed only by infidelity. Why is money such marriage stressor? Financial problems and money conflicts create anxiety, which can lead to arguments and dishonesty. Fights about money can become power struggles, blame games, and can negatively influence many parts of a relationship.
Luckily you don’t have to have and to hold until money tears you apart. Here are some tips for managing money as a couple and preventing financial conflicts from ruining your relationship:
A good relationship depends on having effective, honest communication between both parties, and money must be a part of your daily conversation. It is important to be transparent and talk freely about your income, credit card usage, student loans, alimony, investments and other financial subjects. Hiding information about debt, financial obligations or income or lying about money mistakes is unhealthy. There’s even a phrase for it: financial infidelity
. When financial issues eventually come to light – which they almost inevitably do – resentment can set in and trust can be lost.
Set goals – together
Once your financial situation is out in the open, you can start setting goals from a common ground. Relationships are built on shared dreams and having shared financial ambitions can bring you closer together.
Do you want to save for a down payment on a home? Pay off excessive debt? Put more money toward retirement? Whether you want to go on a vacation or save for your child’s college tuition, you both need to be on the same page. Establish short-term and long-term goals that work for both of you, even if only one of you is generating an income. Marriage is a partnership and each partner needs to feel empowered in some way.
Create a household budget
With your goals set, now is the time to create a household budget. This will serve as your financial roadmap so that you can achieve your financial objectives. There are many free budget templates available online.
- Determine how much money is coming in. Examine your paystubs and bank statements and calculate your net monthly income.
- Determine how much money is going out. Separate your expenses into categories, including fixed expenses (such as mortgage/rent, utilities, car payment, student loan, daycare, etc.) and discretionary expenses (dining out, clothing, gifts, entertainment).
Take a good look at the numbers. If you are coming up in the red in some areas, can you cut back on your discretionary expenses? Remember— just as your goals should be established as a couple, so should your budget. It’s an exercise in compromise. Your budget has to balance both of your priorities.
Try to align your budget with your predetermined financial goals. For example, if you are saving for a down payment on a home, your spending habits should enable you to put aside money each month in your savings account. If your budget shows that you are not on track to reach your goals, explore ways you can readjust your spending to put you on a better path to financial success. Lunch out…a new pair of shoes…that daily latte…all those expenses add up. You and your partner may both have to make sacrifices to your discretionary spending.
While you should be keeping close attention to your spending as a couple, no one likes to be micromanaged. Some financial experts recommend that couples have a joint account for shared expenses and that each spouse should also have a separate individual “fun money” account to spend on discretionary items as they wish. This will give each partner a sense of freedom and breathing room and help them avoid the feeling that they need to “report” every penny spent to their significant other.
Acknowledge your differences
Each person in a relationship brings with him or her a set of beliefs and values about money. Maybe you are a saver and your spouse is a spender. Perhaps you grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck and your partner’s family never worried about money – and never talked about it either. The attitudes you and your partner have about money developed long before you met each other, and they can’t be changed overnight.
Acknowledge how your spouse thinks about saving and spending and look for ways you can come together. Think like a team. Lean on each other’s strengths and work as a couple to achieve your financial happily ever after.
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