Finances are tricky. Each of us is a product of our environment, and our attitudes toward money and strategic approaches to “financial happiness” are always different. There’s a balance we all must strike between satisfaction, comfort, freedom, and security. We all have our own ideas about what combination of these equals happiness.
The commitment of marriage also means you’re entering a lifelong business partnership, and any successful business requires communication, planning, problem solving, good data, and collaboration.
The short answer is, yes, financial issues can and do end in divorce in some cases. In fact, this is one of the leading causes. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t identify the pitfalls and take steps to overcome them.
Below, we’ll share a few ways that finances can create friction between married partners, and a few ways to prevent the friction before it occurs.
Let’s assume you decide together to have children. How will this alter your lifestyle? What will you be giving up as a result of the increased cost that kids present? Couples often disagree on the amount to save for education, the quality of clothing for the kids, the number of extracurricular activities, trips to Disney World, and the list goes on. The added expense of raising children can place stress on an already tight budget.
Disparity of Income
In many cases, one spouse makes notably more than the other. Some marriages may be single income. This can lead to someone believing he or she has the sole authority to delegate expenditures.
The Spending of Wealth
We know that in every marriage there are savers and spenders and everything in between. Disagreements between those who seek adventure for themselves or near term happiness for their family (which can lead to debt) and those who place more importance on investing for the future occur in almost every marriage. Others simply disagree on where to spend their hard-earned dollars. A vacation or a new car? A new wardrobe or a business course?
Shopping addictions, going overboard on hobbies, and gambling are all examples of ways you can lose sight of the big picture as a result of compulsive behavior. It’s far too easy for most of us to open a new credit card and simply worry about it later.
Treat it Like a Business
In order for you and your partner to enjoy long term success, it’s important that each clearly understands the incomes and expenses that impact their lives on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis.
Schedule a monthly “meeting” that allows you to focus objectively on where your money is being spent, what is being saved, and what is left over. Assign an honorary “CFO” in charge of sharing expenditures and leading the discussion. Most marriages include at least one person who would prefer to take this on.
Be honest and calmly explain your point of view, realizing that you and your spouse won’t always see things the same way. Be ready to listen intently. Discuss your long term financial (and fun) goals with one another and see if you can set some common benchmarks together.
This meeting may sound unnecessary, but it helps to ensure you’re aligned moving forward.
At least twice each year, pull all your debt records together so you can review them. Determine if it makes sense to consolidate, and which debts will save you the most by eliminating them first. Reflect on why the debt exists; what was the initial decision that incurred the cost? Are there other expenses that are delaying the clearing of your debts (going out to eat, too many television streaming services, etc.)?
If the foundation of marriage is trust, then it’s important to lay all your cards on the table. This means being transparent about secondary bank accounts, PayPal and Venmo activities, and credit card status. If everyone knows what’s coming in and what’s going out (and what’s being purchased on credit), it’s easier to make decisions together.
Luckily, there’s a myriad of desktop and mobile applications out there to help us link all our finances together and see them in one place.
If financial disagreements are causing stress in your marriage, consider giving these options a try. You may be surprised how having productive conversations about your wealth can bring you together.