You met and sparks flew. You couldn’t imagine your life without him (or her). You had so much in common. You loved the same movies, same music; you finished each other’s sentences. Before you knew it, you had your future children’s names picked out and you were planning for the BIG day. Life couldn’t get any better!
Then “money” happened.
According to a poll by USA TODAY, nearly two-thirds of married couples talk little or nothing about money before they say, “I do.” The majority decide to join their lives without talking about joining their bank accounts. While agreeing on a place to live, how many children to have, and what the children’s names will be, most have no plans on how to spend, save and give their money.
Another statistic from the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll states that spending too much and saving too little is the most common issue that causes strife among married couples.
Since we know that family and strong marriages are the fabric of our society, what can we do to preserve them?
Here are few practical steps every couple (married or engaged) can take to protect and strengthen their relationship, while implementing sound financial habits. Taking these few simple steps can save much heartache and bring more peace, not only to the couple but also to the entire family.
1. Straight money talk
Money has been a taboo subject among couples for way too long. It’s time to break the silence and start talking. Set aside one night a month for your “money talk.” Do it over coffee and desert, or after your children go to bed so there are no interruptions. Be honest with each other and listen. Use that time to discuss problem areas and possible solutions. Don’t waste it on playing the blame game.
2. Wisdom in the multitude of counselors
Admitting financial problems is never easy. However, finding a trusted and objective source of counsel is often critical for couples who simply can’t figure it out on their own. Do you know a couple that’s making the right financial decisions? Befriend them. Ask them questions. Learn from their experience. If they can do it, so can you! If you are further along on your financial journey, look for a sound financial advisor who shares your values and will be able to guide you as you look ahead to retirement, saving for kids’ college education, investing, etc.
3. Spender or Saver – which one are you?
Learning each other’s money personalities is key to helping you succeed financially. Most likely one of you is a spender while the other one has a tendency to save. Forget the traditional roles regarding who should handle money at home. Let the one who is a saver manage your home finances. Build a budget together, agree on how much you’ll spend on each budget category, and let the saver keep you accountable for sticking to the plan! Think of creative ways to reward the spender for sticking to his or her allowance each month. It’ll keep them motivated to keep it up.
4. Make budgeting fun with technology!
Budget does not have to mean boring and complicated excel spreadsheets. Today, technology offers many great online budgeting solutions to help you and your spouse not only track every single penny but also plan on how you will spend it. Once you find a solution that fits your needs, both you and your spouse will be able to have much more fun in the process.
5. Break the yoke of debt – start saving
If you are in debt, the one sure way to break that cycle is to start saving. Too many couples use their debt as an excuse not to save. Make a list of small, doable goals. Start with saving $1000 as an emergency fund and then keep going. Your goals should include having 3-6 months of living expenses set aside. If you have a hard time leaving that saved money alone, talk to your bank about putting restrictions on your savings account not to allow withdrawals. According to the FPA poll, only one in five couples make investment decisions together. Work hard on breaking that trend. Plan together, set goals together and celebrate every accomplished milestone together.
Money does not have to be the cause of relational breakdowns. You may have heard this saying before: Money is a great servant but a bad master. Learning how to master your money will eliminate relational stress. It will create financial breathing room and a solid foundation for your family’s future. So take it one step at a time. Fight for your marriage by making daily smart money decisions.
By Megan Pacheco