They say that money can’t buy happiness. While that may be true, the topic of finances in relationships can often be the pace car in how far your relationship is going to sail or not sail into the sunset.
“Money problems” is still a front runner in the leading causes of divorce in the United States and has remained there for decades. A 2009 study found that couples who disagree over money once a week are 30% more likely to part ways than couples who have those same disagreements once a month. Knowing this, shouldn’t the “money talk” be a top priority for couples to have BEFORE taking the leap into marriage? Of course it should. That said, most people would rather go to the dentist every day for a year than divulge their financial bad habits.
Why you ask? Good question. Just like the visits to the dentist, 9 times out of 10 it ends up never being as bad as you thought it was going to be. Regardless of how much you hate the dentist, you know it’s something that you have to do. Having the money talk with your spouse should also be at the very top of your list of things you HAVE to do.
When you are ready to talk to spouse about money, here are a few tips to help you and your spouse get on the same page (read: a lot of Novocain or laughing gas in my dentist comparison).
You have to be completely open and honest with your spouse about your financial history and spending habits. They’ve voluntarily married you for better or for worse and that includes divulging any financial skeletons that either of you may have hiding in your closet. Ideally, there aren’t any post-marriage skeletons as this talk should happen before you say “I Do.” Once both of you are looking at your financial landscape with eyes wide open, it’s much easier to discuss future plans and tactics to reach your financial goals.
Goals - Make Them and Talk about Them
Before you can make an effective financial plan, you have to both agree on your end goals. You can each have your own personal goals, but there should be at least one overarching goal for your family budget. Be it paying off old debt or saving to put a down payment on a house, sharing similar goals can be very effective in building comradery and a teamwork approach as you make progress.
Most people get their financial personality from their parents. How they were raised to think about spending and saving often plays a big role in how they themselves will handle their finances. Even if you don’t agree with everything that you hear, having a talk about each other’s financial upbringing can bring a lot of perspective and understanding into the mix and perhaps help you avoid future arguments.
Set Up a Monthly Coffee Date (Reoccurring Account Review)
Okay it really isn’t a date but it’s a great way to make you think about a monthly financial planning session. See, coffee date sounds much better doesn’t it? Whether it’s at your local Starbucks or if it’s at your kitchen table, you and your spouse should set aside a mandatory reoccurring time to go through all of your finances and make sure you are still on track to reach your goals. Financial aggregators or Personal Finance Managers (PFMs) like Mariner360 are great free tools to use to give you an extremely accurate snapshot of where your money is actually going. (Personal Disclaimer: This can be an extremely scary process. No one should spend that much money on lattes in one year.) These PFMs also can help you both set up budgets and send you alerts when there has been unusual spending or you’re getting close to going over your preselected budget.
Don’t Judge, Don’t be Controlling, and Be Supportive
You are not going to agree on 100% of your goals. You’re most certainly not going to 100% agree on some of the past actions that may have put you or your spouse in a less than ideal financial situation. And that is 100% okay. If you start to go down the path of being overly controlling and placing blame when things get rocky, resentment could soon show its ugly face. As with most things in a marriage, it’s important to always aim to be supportive and not judge one another. As long as you both agree to pursue your joint goals together before pursing your personal goals, everyone will win.
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