Attitudes about money and finances can create significant problems within many marriages and relationships. In fact, according to a recent study by Money magazine, 84 percent of respondents stated that money has caused tension within their marriages. In addition, a large percentage of people whose marriages have ended in divorce cited money problems as a major culprit.
While identifying and working on money issues prior to tying the knot is advisable, partners need to cooperate on financial matters throughout their relationship in order to prevent negative outcomes over time. Working with your significant other on the items noted below may help to improve what may be a sensitive area of your relationship.
One of the biggest mistakes couples can make is not clearly sharing thoughts on financial goals with one another. According to licensed clinical social worker Diane Schachtele, “failing to discuss issues such as managing debt, saving, spending and long-term financial goals may lead to couples feeling frustrated, resentful and angry. Improving communication between the couple on this topic is a cornerstone to the success of the relationship.”
Often the trouble begins when one spouse employs a “live for today” attitude toward finances while the other has a “save for tomorrow” approach. Different approaches to money can be tough to deal with — especially between spenders and savers. However, respecting these differences and working toward a compromise can help. One of the most effective ways to bridge the gap between spouses with diverging views on money management is to work with an independent third party on the development of a comprehensive financial plan.
Financial planning is broadly defined as a process for determining financial goals, purposes in life and life’s priorities; and then, after considering resources, risk profile and current lifestyle, detailing a balanced and realistic plan to meet those goals.
Unfortunately, few spouses work together to establish a plan with that type of detail, but if they do, it can be a game-changer in the marriage. From a mutually agreed upon budget to thorough discussions of major purchases, the more communication the better.
Establishing weekly money dates to pay bills and discuss goals can be a simple, yet effective way of following through on your financial game plan. This also prevents one spouse from handling all of the bills and leaving the other in the dark. While there are schools of thought that suggest there are benefits to spouses dividing their finances, this approach can be a slippery slope.
Separating the finances may lead to a lack of communication and distrust over how income and expenses are being handled. If you can find a way to get on the same page, joining finances in a marriage can help to foster teamwork and trust in the long run.
Pick your battles
Compromise plays an important role in any facet of a relationship and finances are no different. In this area, it may be helpful to work on being effective, rather than being right.
Respect your differences and do not allow little things to get in the way of the achievement of your overall financial goals. In addition, keep in mind the importance of setting a good example for your children. Remember, the way finances are handled in your home, like so many other things, will influence the way your children conduct their future relationships.
Not all money problems have to do with money. It is quite common for other relationship issues to disguise themselves as money problems. For this reason, you may want to consider speaking to a therapist who can address the myriad of issues that can come up in relationships.
Money issues can be difficult to face in any relationship. However, working together to develop a shared vision and financial game plan for the future while respecting each other’s differences may help relieve some of the friction.
Schachtele adds, “If a couple is committed to the marriage 100 percent, the financial differences can generally be worked through successfully.”
Since everyone’s situation is unique, consider speaking to your financial adviser and/or therapist to determine the most appropriate plan for you.
Kurt J. Rossi, MBA, CFP®, AIF® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERtm & Wealth Advisor. He can be reached for questions at 732-280-7550, kurt.rossi@Independentwm.com,www.bringyourfinancestolife.com & www.Independentwm.com. LPL Financial Member FINRA/SIPC.