Talking about money does not come easily or naturally to most people. It is one of those “taboo” subjects that you don’t discuss in public. However, you don’t want to wait to talk to your spouse about money when the bills are piling up, and the checking account is empty. If you’re going to establish a strong foundation for your future together, you need to have the “money talk.”
Start small and casual.
Most people wait until a financial crisis to talk to their spouse about their finances. By then, stress and anger have built up, and you can resort to blaming or shaming your partner. It hurst your marriage when you personally attack your partner. Their defense mechanisms kick in. Instead of being able to talk about your finances, you are screaming and fighting.
Start talking about money when there is no crisis Think of it as planning for your financial future together.
- If we want your spouse to share with you freely, you must give them your undivided attention.
- Don’t lecture, discuss. Instead of talking at your partner, talk with your partner.
- Try to understand each other’s points of view. Ask questions and wait patiently for an answer.
- Pick the right time and place. Choose a time when you are less likely to be stressed out, exhausted, or engrossed in something else.
- Ease into the conversation slowly. Try one of these introductions.
- Bring up a money goal you are working on saving for, like a vacation. Ask your spouse what money goals they have.
- Find an article about couples and finances and share it with your spouse. Bring it up later and discuss what each of you thought of it.
- Look into Personal Finance classes at a community college and suggest that you and your spouse attend together.
Don’t keep secrets
Honesty is essential in any relationship. Make sure you and your partner share your credit history, debt liabilities, and other obligations. Don’t hide your purchases from your spouse. Don’t keep hidden bank accounts. If you don’t discuss such things, you can never truly develop a strong foundation from which to build on. Tell the truth and be open when it comes to money.
If you both are open about your financial struggles, you can put your heads together to find a strategy to address them. Struggles could include:
Since both people have disclosed personal money-related information, it can make each of you feel less vulnerable and create a more level playing field when you put it all out there. Both people may feel an emotional connection by opening up with personal and private information.
Create a financial plan
Both partners should look at the joint financial picture in black and white. How much Money do you have coming in each month? What debts do You have? What are your major expenses? Have you started saving?
Who currently manages the budget, pays the bills, or organizes the finances in your household? Many individuals wrongfully assume the other party in the relationship is willing or able to handle all these responsibilities. It doesn’t matter who manages these tasks or how you divide the duties. What matters is that do it.
Once you have created a Financial Budget and a way to pay off debts, set dates to track how you are doing.
Establish Goals Together
What goals do you have for your future? Perhaps you’d like to travel, change careers, start a business, own a new home, continue your education, or start a family. Whatever your dreams are, be sure to establish a financial plan for them with your partner. Use one of your money dates to jot down some goals and ensure they are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Money goals could include saving for:
- A home
- Home renovations
- A new car
- A cruise
Whatever your goals are, they start with an open conversation and a solid plan.
Set Regular Money dates
Schedule a “money date” once or twice a month to discuss your financial situation, review your budget, and discuss upcoming priorities. You should pleasantly surprised at your progress toward realizing your goals. By taking an hour here and there to check your progress and proactively address potential issues, you are building a solid marital bond to last a lifetime.
Having children is one of the biggest joys in a couple’s life. Long before that bundle of joy comes into the world…the spending begins. Nursery decorating can be such a bonding experience for a young couple as they pick out paint colors, furniture, blankets, sheets, mobiles, baby monitors, clothing, car seats, bath accessories, etc. While children bring many happy moments of love, they also require a long-list of child-related expenses. Out of control child-related spending can unravel even the best of marriages.
According to a U.S. News & World Report, the cost of raising a child to the age of 18 in the U.S. in 2021 was $267,000, or more than $14,800 per year. Every parent wants their child to have the best of everything. However, some can go completely over the top in buying their child the newest and latest toys and clothes, hosting the best celebrations, and insisting on the top of the line everything for their child. Before you know it, you are overextended and stressed out over how to pay the stack of credit card bills. The average American family had $6,270 in credit card debt in 2021.
Credit cards, loans, buy now and pay later deals are NOT free money! Eventually, those cards, loans, and deals will come due, and you will need to come up with the money to pay them off. A recent survey of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts revealed that 22% of marriages end in divorce because of money issues. The good news is that there are steps you can take now to get out from under that debt and get your family spending under control.
Before any financial plan can be made to get out of debt, you will both need to be willing to do some work to understand where you want to be, where you are, and how you got there.
- Make a Financial Date.
Make a date with your spouse to discuss the family finances and financial goals. Approach the matter in a positive light.
“Honey, I feel like we have not really determined our long-term goals for ourselves and our family. I would like to set aside some time to talk about our future. What is a good day, time for us to do that?”
Notice that there is no anger in this statement. There is no blame. There is no pushiness or nagging. You married you spouse because you love them and want to spend the rest of your life with them. Now that you are married and have children, you simply want to discuss your future together. To do that, you need to start the discussion with “where do you want to go?”
- Remember and Share Your Dreams.
Remember when you were dating? I will bet that you spend hours talking about what you each wanted to do with your lives. Did you want to get an advanced degree? Did you want a house in the country or the city? Did you imagine beautiful family vacations in the mountains, or at the beach? What do you think your retirement will look like?
Spend some time talking about the things you really want out of your lives and write them down. By sharing goals, you are identifying the things that you feel are worth working and saving toward. Agree to have another financial date to talk about how you feel about money and set that date.
- Identify Your Financial Personality
In your next financial date, each of you should try to identify how you feel about money. Many marital fights about money occur because both spouses have completely opposite views about money. One spouse may spend for quality items without giving much thought to the budget or future goals. The other spouse may rein in their wants, try to control the budget, and focus on saving money for the future.
The saver might feel resentment over the effects of the uncontrolled spending of the spending spouse. The spender might be exasperated with the saving spouse’s constant nagging and lack of appreciation for the finer things of life for their children. Which one are you? Discuss how you feel with your spouse calmly and without anger. Agree to have another financial date to determine the state of your own finances.
- Find out what your financial status is.
You will each need to prepare ahead for this next financial date. Each spouse needs to make a list of their sources of income such as paychecks, alimony checks, investment dividends, or other. One spouse needs to gather the last 6 months of bank statements and the check register or online banking transaction register. The other spouse should gather the last 6 months of investment or savings account statements. Print off this simple budgeting sheet or copy it onto a piece of paper.
When you sit down for your next financial date, together you will fill out the budgeting worksheet by listing all your income and expenses and subtracting the total expenses from your total income. You now both now exactly where you stand financially and can discuss your feelings about it. Please do not “blame” or react in anger because they will only drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Instead focus on whether you suspected the results of the budgeting exercise or were surprised by it. How do the results affect your long-term goals? Agree to have another financial date to talk about how you can change those results by reducing expenses.
Every married couple must learn to work together continuously to solve their problems. Money problems are some of the biggest problems you will face. The key is to learn to face your problems together as a team and learn to communicate with each other about the “hard stuff.” While you want to solve the issue, you also want to preserve the bond of love and happiness in your marriage. Get started on the road to a stronger relationship with a free trial to some of the best exercises and tools used by professional marriage counselors.
Money problems in marriage arise from imbalances in power, decision-making, and transparency. They often happen when spouses have a large inequity in their earning power. The spouse with the most income or wealth often expects to dictate the family’s spending priorities.
Power plays can occur in one of these instances:
- One partner has a paid job, and the other doesn't.
- Both partners would like to be working, but one is unemployed.
- One spouse earns considerably more than the other.
- One partner comes from a family that has money and the other doesn't.
When one or more of these situations is present, the spouse who makes or has the most money often wants to dictate and control the couple's spending. The power control can manifest itself in numerous ways that are destructive to the relationship.
- One Spouse controls all the finances, doling out money to the other spouse only after being convinced that it’s use is sensible. In marriage, one spouse dominating another does not usually lead to a loving and intimate relationship.
- One Spouse makes all the financial decisions without consulting the other spouse. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. If one spouse controls the decision making, the other spouse has no voice in the marriage.
- One Spouse balances the checkbook, invests the family’s money, and controls the checkbook and safety deposit box. One spouse could conceivably make bad investments, overextend the family in debt, or make large withdrawals for purchases the other spouse would not approve of.
Few things build resentment more quickly than feeling marginalized, powerless, and kept in the dark by your spouse. Power play issues can get ugly fast and are a predictor of divorce. Some studies also indicate that infidelity is correlated with disparity in earning power.
Income and resource disparities are de-stabilizing for couples. Resentment and fights about money seep into every aspect of your married life. It divides you, breaks down the trust in your relationship, prevents intimacy, and can negatively affect your health.
How to End the Money Power Play
- Have an open and frank discussion about your feelings about how the family finances are managed.
No problem can be resolved if you both do not communicate and address the problem. Each of you has a perspective on your finances and you need to get that out in the open. Approach the discussion with an “I” statement rather than a “You” statement.
“I feel that I do not have much input into….”
“You never discuss financial things with me…”
The “I feel...” statement is non-threatening, whereas the “You never discuss…” statement immediately puts your spouse on the defensive.
Have empathy for your spouse.
If you are the larger income earner or the wealthier of spouses, you need to be sensitive about how you throw your weight around. Try to reverse roles and imagine how you would feel in your spouse’s shoes.
Share a joint bank account that each has access to.
Relieve financial stress and resentment in your marriage by being open about your spending and the amounts in your financial accounts. You are building your finances to prepare for a happy lifetime together, so both should be part of that building.
Make important spending decisions together.
Many spouses set a spending threshold, say $200.00, that require both to talk about before spending that amount or above. It is a way of keeping your finances on track and trusting your partner.
Sometimes the higher-earning spouse will delegate all the routine spending decisions to their lower-earning, or non-earning partners. This is a way of showing respect for your spouse and assuring them a role in decision making.
Build a Future Vision for Your Finances Together
Talking about your dreams for the future can help take the animosity out of dealing with your money. It also gives you a reason to do budget checkups regularly so you can each see your progress toward your goals.
“Honey, remember we are saving up for a house, so is this really a good time for that purchase?”
“Oh, sweetie, we almost have enough for a down payment!”
Working through your financial issues in a healthy way preserves the love in your relationship. It takes a lot of security and maturity to give up power, but if have an abundance of trust in your partner, it can work for you. Sharing power fosters a sense of togetherness and increases the intimacy bond in your marriage.
One of the biggest financial issues that can negatively impact a marriage is how each spouse handles and views money. Each spouse may have different views of money, one spouse may primarily seek to save money for a rainy day, and another could have a spending fetish.
It’s very difficult for partners who view money, saving, and spending in fundamentally conflicting ways to manage household finances successfully as a team. This type of conflict will typically raise trust and intimacy issues in the relationship. After your last fight over money with your spouse, did you spend time kissing, cuddling, and getting passionate? Probably not. Money issues can eventually cause resentment and a lack of desire for intimacy, paralyzing your relationship.
Two big issues that can destroy a marriage are:
- Who does the money belong to?
Very few people talk about finances before they are married, so it is easy to get into problems when each spouse has a different view of who us entitled to the marital money. Some spouses pool their money into a joint account and treat it as a joint asset by splitting expenses down the middle. However, in another marriage, one spouse may believe that since they bring in the lion’s share of the earnings, the money belongs to them. In that case, they may become controlling and insist on keeping track of the finances themselves and require the other spouse to seek their approval before spending any money.
- How’s your credit?
One spouse may be perfectly comfortable using credit cards and taking out loans. Another spouse may be very wary of using credit. Do you know your partner’s credit score? knowing your partner’s credit score provides some insight into your partner’s past financial decisions. Money is a common source of stress in a marriage, so it is helpful to know how your partner has handled money in the past. It is not unusual for a spouse to find out after the marriage that their wife or husband has a run up a lot of debt and has a poor credit score.
While marriage does not automatically make one spouse responsible for another spouse’s debts, it can cause problems for the future. If you jointly apply for a credit card or a loan to purchase a house or car, the lender will consider both credit scores and, chances are, the poor credit score will result in higher interest rates and fees than if both credit scores were high.
How to Reconcile Financial Issues in Your Marriage
Financial compatibility is rarely discussed before a couple makes a long-term commitment.
However, money issues are one of the top 5 reasons for divorce. Here are three steps to take to begin reconciling your financial issues.
Don’t Play the Blame Game.
Many partners, rather than working together, start to place blame on the other person. This creates discord and resentment in the relationship. It will be impossible to fix your financial issues if you are bickering, blaming, and fighting.
Gently break the ice on a conversation with your spouse about money.
Talking about money is stressful for most people. It makes them uncomfortable and defensive. To minimize and prevent “money fights”, start off trying to understand each other’s financial priorities and dreams for your future together.
- What two dreams do you have for our life together?
- What dreams do you have for your own future?
- If you could splurge on one thing, what would it be?
Talk openly about ideas to make your dreams come true.
Once you have some positive dreams to work toward, you can talk about how you’ll get there. You and your partner need to agree to review your current finances together and make a specific plan to save for your future together.
- Do you know how much money you have?
- Do you know how much money you owe?
- What do you do with any excess left over?
Commit to meet and communicate regularly about your finances.
Working together and communicating openly about how to use, keep track of, and manage your money will help you avoid the “money fights.”
- How can we pay down our debt and curb expenses?
- How will we keep track of our money?
- Do we know how to invest our money to make it grow for the future?
As you plan regularly and share your dreams, you will be strengthening the bond of your marriage and enjoy the priceless love in your marriage.