According to a study by Smart Money and Redbook magazine, 70% of married couples argue about money. In fact, it’s the culprit in about 50% of the marriages that fail. This problem stems from the fact that in most relationships, there is a “spender” and a “saver.” Without proper communication, these two personalities can clash, leading to arguments, stress and unfortunately divorce. Most psychologists agree that having a financially healthy relationship begins before couples tie the knot, and the following tips and ideas can help couples get on and stay on the same page regarding money.
Before the Wedding
When you’re madly in love, talking about money and showing each other your accounts, expenses and debts feels, well, wrong. You’re talking about getting married, a situation where you should love each other no matter what happens. But if you are going to promise to be with someone forever, shouldn’t you know what you are promising? It’s important to understand the full financial picture and plan together how you will tackle your shared financial issues together once you are married. You can make it feel less cold by considering this process as part of planning your lives together.
Couples should provide each other with copies of their credit reports. While this can be extremely uncomfortable for some, it reduces the risk of any surprises in the future when a large joint purchase is being considered, such as a home. You wouldn’t rent out an apartment without knowing the credit risk of the tenant. Why would you enter into an even more binding contract like marriage without one?
After reviewing both credit reports, make a detailed budget that includes a comprehensive plan to pay down both parties’ debt. Doing this not only relieves a lot of financial stress, but provides you with a common goal to serve as a strong foundation for your marriage. When all the cards are on the table, it’s important that couples avoid comparing each others or seeing financial performance as a reflection of character. Instead, use the weakest link theory. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the poorer credit report being the weak link. How can the two of you work together to strengthen that number? This should be the focus of your conversation.
After the Wedding
A study done by Smart Money magazine says that 64% of couples have joint accounts. While this is traditionally what newlyweds are expected to do, it may not work for all couples. If one party has poor credit, it is suggested that separate accounts are maintained until debt is paid off and the person’s credit score is back in good standing, though the spouse with good credit should support and help their partner in restoring their finances.
If both parties have equal credit, a joint account is recommended for household items, bills and savings, with each party maintaining a smaller separate account for their own personal use. This separate account can eliminate a majority of fights stemming from one person becoming upset over their partner’s purchases, as well as allowing each half of the couple a little autonomy when it comes to personal spending money.
Experts currently recommend that at least a year’s worth of living expenses should be kept in a secure savings account. Acquiring this much savings is often difficult for couples, even with two incomes. Therefore, opening this account as soon as possible and contributing to it regularly can speed up the process.
Now that a strong plan is in place for marital and financial success, it is important that couples do not go overboard when planning their wedding. Create a reasonable, affordable budget and stick to it. A thousand roses may be beautiful, but paying for them for the next couple of years will not be.
Upon joining households, couples often go a little over the deep end when it comes to purchasing items for their new home, which can result in even more debt than what was brought to the relationship in the first place. Experts suggest that newlyweds create a wish list of household items, listing them in order of priority or need. Then, set a realistic budget for the items and do not exceed it. If that new flat screen is not as important as a patio set, then the flat screen may just have to wait.
Happily Ever After
At least once a month, couples should sit down and go over their finances. This ensures that both people are working in the same direction, and have a clear idea of their situation. Couples should also continuously evaluate their financial goals, both individually and together. Whether it be purchasing a car or planning for retirement, goals need to adjust continuously to the changes and challenges life presents.
Managing money and one’s financial future responsibly can be daunting and downright difficult when another person is involved. Continuous and honest communication is vital for newlyweds to make the subject of money bring them closer rather than tear them apart.