“In life or in death, ‘til $$$ do us part….”
In life, at least, money is a huge factor in your marital bliss.
The correlation between financial arguments and divorce is strikingly high, according to this 2013 study from Kansas State University. Decreasing money arguments is an important step towards a lasting marriage.
Avoid these seven common money mistakes, and do your marriage good.
1. Assuming your spouse’s debt is not your responsibility
While it is true that your spouse’s debt is not your sole responsibility, refusing to share the burden of debt is a bad way to begin a marriage. With men and women marrying later compared to earlier generations, new marriages often begin with more debt—from student loans, cars, homes, or credit cards.
It’s in your best interest, both financially and relationally, to reduce all debt as much as possible before your wedding day. If not before the big day, clear out your debts as quickly as possible, even if this means putting your hard-earned money towards your spouse’s old college loans. Your bank account and your marriage will be happier for it.
2. Maintaining Separate Finances
When you marry, you become a single household. This doesn’t mean you have to combine all your bank accounts, but you should have at least one shared account for combined expenses such as rent and utilities.
Make a budget that covers all the shared bills and then split the remaining money for individual expenses.
3. Not agreeing on rules for managing money
When you create your household budget, have a conversation about how you and your spouse plan to manage money. Lay out some ground rules.
You can use these questions to discuss these questions with your spouse how you are going to manage money:
- How much money can we spend without consulting each other?
- Do we need to confer with each other before taking out loans or opening credit cards?
- Will we have money conversations regularly or only when needed?
- How will we handle bonuses and large unexpected expenses?
- Will we give allowance to kids (if we have them), and how will we do that?
After you agree on some ground rules, write them down so that you can refer to them when necessary. Abiding by these rules will help decrease the tension of financial conversations and avoid money mistakes in your marriage.
Communication: Honesty, Transparency, and Respect
4. Keeping secrets and hiding money from your spouse
When it comes to money and marriage, honesty is the best policy. A 2012 survey by Self.com and Today.com, revealed that financial dishonesty is as damaging as marital unfaithfulness. For 70 percent of women and 63 percent of men, financial fidelity is as important as sexual fidelity.
Unfortunately, dishonesty and secret-keeping are too common. According to the same survey, over 50 percent of women and over 30 percent of men reported lying to their spouse about money, often because they thought their spouse would disagree about how the money should be spent.
Hiding money and keeping secrets may be signs of deeper problems or disagreements that need to be worked out. Keep open communication about money matters.
5. Leaving one person in charge of the money
You and your spouse are in this together. Even if one of you handles all of the bills, both of you should be fully aware of your finances. (Sharing the responsibility and having a joint account also makes it harder to keep money secrets) Setting a biweekly or monthly time to discuss money is a good way to ensure that you are both on the same page.
Ideally, couples should evaluate their budget regularly, review account balances, adjust financial goals, and plan for upcoming expenses together. If your spouse really doesn’t want to get involved in money matters, find a way to keep him or her informed; you can show account information and a snapshot of the month’s income and expenses.
6. Not having a long term plan
College, retirement, and long-term care are important conversations to be had early on. Later, these needs might not end your marriage, but they will impact your golden years. Make a long term plan so that you are financially prepared for the years ahead.
7. Allowing emotions to control money decisions
Money is a sensitive issue, and it can easily be turned into an emotional weapon. Don’t use money to shame your spouse. If one of you makes a money mistake, don’t retaliate by making another money mistake.
Learn to respect each other and treat each other with dignity even if you have made a money mistake. Respond with grace and take advantage of the situation to have a constructive conversation about your finances. Review your ground rules and budget goals so that you can keep your finances in order and your marriage healthy.