There are several studies out there attempting to discover why people divorce. Lack of trust, infidelity, lack of communication or incompatibility are all common reasons. However, surprisingly, in most studies it is the issue of money that tops the list.
When looking at it very closely, you can begin to notice common patterns that occur in marriages that end in divorce due to money related issues. By making ourselves aware of these patterns, we can do our best to avoid running into these pitfalls.
Here are 5 ways to avoid a marriage-ending financial disaster.
1. Do the budget together
Communication is key in any marriage. It is no different when it comes to your money. Having a written plan to determine where and how you will spend money each month will provide you with the freedom to spend guilt-free, and stress-free while living within your means. Doing the budget together allows you to discuss the things that are important to each of you, while working together as a team to determine how to make ends meet.
If just one person is handling the budget, it will be a constant battle of Spouse #1 spending without knowing how much he / she has to spend which leads to Spouse #1 feeling constrained and guilty about spending, while Spouse #2 is trying to control an uncontrollable situation, leading to high amounts of stress.
2. Have joint bank accounts
Having joint bank accounts is crucial and should be seen as part of the overall union of the marriage. It is accountability, being able to know at all times what is coming in and out of the account. It is trust, knowing that you are in this together and you trust each other to spend wisely.
By having separate bank accounts and spending money separately, you are acknowledging that you are different people with different ideas on how to manage your finances. If you can’t work through these things before marriage, it points to a lack of trust between each other and trust is the foundation of a marriage!
3. Regardless of the size your salary, your contributions should be equal
When you get married, you no longer earn money for yourself. You earn money for your team. And as a team, you have to tackle many things together. One of the ongoing responsibilities in a marriage are the bills you have to pay. When it is decided who will be the primary bread-winner for the team, this should be treated no differently than some of the other responsibilities you face as a team such as keeping the house clean and the dishes done, taking the kids to soccer practice, making dinner, etc. With each responsibility, the husband / wife team need to figure out who is going to tackle what. This is where communication comes in, once again.
4. Set financial goals!
Sit down together and have a conversation; discuss your financial goals. What would you like to do with your money? What age would you like to retire at? Do you desire to travel more? Have a bigger home? Drive a nicer car? Give more to charity? While discussing these goals, talk about what it might take to reach those goals. This is where it might be a good idea to involve a professional who can assist you in reaching these goals while helping you know what is and isn’t realistic.
By establishing goals, your partnership takes on even more meaning because you are working together to reach for something. And when you do reach your goals it will help to enforce that bond between you.
5. Communicate before spending outside of the budget
One person is keeping an eye on the balance in the checking account, knowing what bills are about to come in, and the other one decides to make a purchase that was not talked about at the beginning of the month. This can be incredibly frustrating for both parties. The conversation can go something like this:
Spouse 1: “Did you just spend $120 at the grocery store 2 days ago?”
Spouse 2: “Yes.”
Spouse 1: “Well, way to go, you overdrew our account because we had our $300 car payment auto-withdrawn yesterday and I didn’t know you had spent all of that money on groceries. We already spent our grocery fund for this month.”
Spouse 2: “We needed groceries! What are we supposed to do, go hungry?”
Does this sound like a familiar conversation? All of this could have been avoided if they had communicated a couple of day’s prior, saying: “We are out of groceries, how should we handle this situation?” Then, together, they could have decided what the best course of action was. Instead, an unnecessary argument ensued which put unneeded stress on the relationship.
As you read through this article, you might have noticed an underlying theme, communication. It really is key. Talk about your budget, talk about where your money is being spent, use words that complement each other and lift each other up in your hard work, talk about your goals and what it will take to get there. Communication really is everything in marriage, especially when it comes to your money.
Dan Gilbertson, CFP®, CRPC®, RFC®, AIF®