Marriage is a team effort—don't take down your own teammate!
What is the key to a happy marriage?
We think we’ve found the answers: love, gratitude, and—yes—financial literacy.
Do you struggle to talk about finances with your spouse?
You’re not alone. It can be challenging to get on the same page about money matters—whether you’re talking about a shopping spree, your children's college tuition, or where to retire.
In fact, money is a cause of tension in seven out of every 10 marriages. It’s also the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity. When we talk about money and marriage, it’s the norm to find some financial friction.
Why is it so difficult to have money conversations with your spouse?
Sometimes, each spouse has dramatically different ideas about who does what with the family finances, and what the other partner cares about. After all, you both are coming from different life experiences, and the way you perceived and internalized those experiences was probably very different.
However, while you and your spouse may not know it, you may be remarkably in sync about your financial priorities. It’s likely that couples can find common ground in goals (saving for retirement), worries (making your money last in retirement), and values.
Just talking about money goes a long way. To get the conversation started, here are seven tips to help you and your partner budget happily ever after.
1. Understand your spouse’s money mindset
We’ll kick off with a tip for new couples: Conversations about work, family, and dreams may be fun—but don’t forget to have conversations about finances, too.
Talk openly about the state of your finances.
We're all afraid to talk about money. Do it anyway.
How many credit cards do you each have?
How much debt do you carry?
How much is your current take-home pay?
Avoiding this conversation can be risky; past mistakes will affect your future together! Be very upfront with your spouse about what you have and how much you owe. The earlier you have this conversation, the easier it'll get over time.
Talk about what money means to your partner in a relationship.
Understanding what money means to both of you will help you get ahead of future financial misunderstandings. Always make sure you have chemistry when it comes to money.
Recognize your spouse’s money personality.
Who is the spender? Who is the saver?
Play to each of your strengths and learn from each other.
Don’t attempt to change your partner’s money personality.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. A tiger never changes its stripes. There is a reason why there are so many clichés about the inability to change!
Instead, keep your three bank accounts separate: one for you, one for me, and one for us.
2. Talk about money—often
It's a good idea to keep the financial communication channels open. It can become a source of connection when you share financial goals, but it can also become a source of contention if you and your partner aren't on the same page.
Identify major shared goals.
One of the things that helps you bond as a couple is to share joint projects and goals—like buying an investment property or retiring in Puerto Vallarta. Maintaining shared goals helps you deepen your bond over time.
Have regular money dates.
The best way to talk about money is bit by bit.
Money dates, during which you review your household budget, short-term goals, and long-term goals, should be a regular part of your routine. Money is a part of life; it only becomes a problem when a partner hides or lies about money.
It’s challenging to get on the exact same page, but it’s possible to meet each other halfway.
For instance, maybe you don't want to spend money on going out for craft cocktails every weekend like your partner would, but making some room in your budget for the occasional date night can keep both of you happy.
Don’t let salary differences come between you.
Sometimes the breadwinning spouse might feel entitled to making unilateral money decisions. On the other hand, the stay-at-home spouse might feel guilty about spending money on anything beyond the household essentials. Unless you address it head-on, the inequality can start to fracture your relationship.
3. Make financial decisions together
By resolving to make joint financial decisions, you can get ahead of the personal disagreements over financial decision making.
Set up a household budget together.
Sit down at the dinner table, open an Excel spreadsheet, get all your bills and paperwork together and literally put everything on the table. When you both understand your cash flow, you’ll be one step closer to achieving your financial goals.
Work through your lifestyle differences.
Marriage is all about compromise. If you’re going to spend decades together, you’ll need to come to a baseline understanding of how you’ll manage your money together.
Decide who plays what part.
Start by trying to understand each other’s approach and attitude to money. Then, decide who manages what. For instance, one partner might be in charge of household expenses, while the other handles long-term investments and retirement plans.
Be equal partners in all major financial decisions.
Avoid a situation where only one of you understands the overall financial picture. It’s essential to stay on the same page so there are no unexpected surprises.
4. Be financially transparent with each other
We all know that financial honesty is important, but most of us would rather talk about anything other than personal finances. Whether you’re the saver or the spender, money is a subject that’s hard to broach—and it’s hardly the ideal conversation topic to enjoy over a romantic candlelit dinner.
However, it’s important to make it a habit to consult your spouse, especially when it comes to major goals and purchases. Having regular money talks will improve your overall communication. Over time, this can make it easier to identify and talk about other major goals in your marriage.
Make it fun by scheduling an enjoyable activity, like cooking a new meal together or picking a favorite bottle of wine to chat over. Talk about short- and long-term goals, and how you’d like to get there.
By regularly revisiting financial goals and keeping purchases out in the open, you’ll both avoid nasty surprises down the line.
5. Set expectations together
Start by aligning your expectations.
We all carry expectations in all relationships—and we all know that unmet expectations can lead to conflict. That’s why it’s key to get on the same page as your spouse.
First, reflect on your needs. What are your financial goals? What are your sources of fulfillment? What are some reasonable expectations for each spouse’s role in the marriage?
Then, share your needs with one another.
Finally, reach a common resolution and, if necessary, compromise on some expectations. Remember–happy marriages are based on honoring your compromises and respecting your differences!
By getting in sync with your spouse, you can move forward with a stronger and more unified marriage.
Then, resist the urge to micromanage.
If you have the tendency to micromanage your partner’s spending and saving, consider a different approach: financial autonomy. That is, you should both be free to make your own money decisions while still respecting your joint financial obligations and goals.
For example, you can maintain separate Passion Funds for your personal interests. Whether you or your partner love wine, golf, or electronics, focus on filling up your individual Passion Funds. Each of you has the freedom to pursue your own personal dreams and hobbies with guilt-free money from your own Passion Fund.
6. Remember that teamwork makes the dream work
Team members are goal-centered: their goal is to win, and keep winning until the very end. They do this by operating with a high degree of interdependence, share authority and responsibility for self-management, and are accountable for the collective performance.
In a marriage, it's important to work together toward your end game. Play to each of your skill sets, stay flexible, and continue to share insights.
7. Understand the fundamental rules of personal finance
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DISCLAIMER: Advisory Services offered through Prosperity Financial Group, Inc., an Independent Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Fortune Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Prosperity Financial Group, Inc. and Fortune Financial Services, Inc. are separate entities.