Whether you have a lot or a little, money can be stressful – even if you’re single. When you marry, money conflicts, erroneous assumptions and different spending styles can wreak havoc on even the strongest marriages.
Marriage counselors and fiscal advisers agree that replacing magical money thinking with financial smarts is an excellent investment in long-term marital success.
Building a Solid Foundation, Together
It pays to recognize that you cannot control your spouse. In trying to do so you could destroy the love and intimacy of your marriage. At the same time, doing nothing is choosing defeat. Financial conflict is the No. 1 reason U.S. couples divorce. So, how can you and your spouse avoid becoming a statistic?
The foundation of successful money management for married couples requires a fundamental shift in perception, explains Scott Steinbarger, marriage and family therapist for West Metro Christian Counseling in Pocket Your Dollars.
“It’s often the more invisible stuff – like emotions, problem-solving, thinking styles – that we stop appreciating,” Steinbarger notes. “Once you reframe your spouse as a partner, an equal to respect, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish.”
Money Means Power
Money represents more than dollars and cents. It is frequently used to express feelings in relationships, writes contributor Kathleen Burnes Kingsbury in a CNBC column, “Love and Money.”
“It can be given to express love, power and respect, or withheld to punish, control or humiliate,” Kingsbury says. “It’s no wonder adults fall into money traps when it comes to love.”
It’s true that money makes the world go around. But something Warren Buffett said about the importance of looking long-term also is important for married couples to remember: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
Some of the most commons ways people fall into fiscal traps include the following:
- Don’t plan for your financial future. It is important that you discuss the financial expectations of your marriage, notes marriage.com. Financial problems can be avoided if you first discuss how money should be spent, which one of you will be responsible for paying the bills, developing a financial plan and other important money matters.
- Don’t make a budget. “Making a budget should be the golden financial rule for all,” the site notes, “but sadly that is not always the case.” Budgeting builds financial discipline and financial discipline eliminates financial problems. When unexpected expenses arise, solve the issue together, the article says. “Through communication, the couple can grow stronger and prevent ongoing financial instability.”
- Argue, engage in power plays and keep secrets about expenses. Arguing seldom accomplishes anything constructive, the article notes. Agree on strategies together without arguing, blaming or complaining. Don’t use money to manipulate, punish or control your spouse. And nothing breaks trust in a marriage as quickly as finding out your spouse lied to you or hid something important, so don’t keep secrets about expenses.
- Don’t share the same goals. When it comes to financial goals, marriage.com says, it’s best if you are pulling together in the same direction. Come to an agreement on what you are saving towards, whether it’s buying a new car, buying your own home or sending your children to the best schools. You are much more likely to accomplish your goals together.
- Don’t go it alone. It’s always good to ask for help and find a good financial adviser or counselor who can help you make wise money decisions.
- Don’t remember your marriage vows. Your wedding vows should be central in all your financial discussions. “A lot of times the financial problems that come up are unforeseen, such as the loss of a job, a death in the family or emergency health care,” marriage.com notes. “Your vows, held dearly, will equip you with all that you need to overcome financial security.”
For Women, Money Smarts are Key to Security
Financial acumen is important for both spouses, money experts note, but women should pay special attention; statistics bear that out. Women make up two-thirds of American household breadwinners and co-breadwinners, according to The Shriver Report, and at the same time 1 in 3 women lives in or on the brink of poverty. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
If you’re married, don’t meet with your financial adviser alone. Talk about money, resolve financial differences and make decisions as a team, CNBC’s Kingsbury recommends. Such shared and measured approach will pay lifelong benefits. Instead of waiting to be financially rescued as many women do, notes Kingsbury, learn to make wise money decisions based on facts.
“Don’t wait for tragedy to strike to take adult responsibility about your money,” she says. “Do it now.”