Marriage is a partnership in every sense of the word. It’s about love, loyalty, security and, yes, finances.
For all married couples — whether you just tied the knot or have been married for years — one of the best things you can do to ensure the long-term success of your partnership is to have the money talk.
Contributed by David Bakke
Fifty percent of all marriages in America result in divorce, and one of the leading reasons for that is disagreements about money. To put your marriage on the right path starting today, read on.
The definition of the money talk
Defining the money talk isn’t easy. Each situation is different — different personalities, different backgrounds, different levels of income. Your first step should be to identify the individual financial mindsets of you and your spouse, especially where you don’t see eye to eye. Are you or your partner a spender or a saver? Is carrying credit card debt acceptable? When does one of you need to consult the other before spending money? Crystallize your financial philosophy as a couple and decide what your priorities are. Once you come up with a blueprint for your money talk, you and your spouse can sit down and get to it.
Reasons to have it right now
Your future depends on it
You entered into this relationship because you want it to last. Honesty and openness are touted as healthy traits of a good marriage — well, that doesn’t just apply to matters of the heart. Important issues like finance shouldn’t be bottled up, they should be brought out and dealt with on day one. Have the money talk today and you maximize your chances for a successful marriage.
You’ll have a much healthier relationship
Your relationship is going to have enough ups and downs throughout the years — there’s no reason to add money matters to that mix. Discuss the topic now, formulate a joint game plan going forward, and both parties are going to be that much better off.
There will be less temptation to lie
If you don’t have the money talk, the temptation to lie about hidden purchases and mysterious credit card charges becomes much more prevalent. Discuss money first and put everything on the table. Whether you carry joint credit cards or keep them separate, make sure you discuss what is acceptable spending and what is not.
You can jointly improve your financial knowledge
If one partner is a retirement expert and the other doesn’t know a Roth IRA from a traditional IRA, it’s going to be difficult to discuss the topic of saving for the future intelligently. On the other hand, the spouse who doesn’t know anything about retirement might be a savings wiz in the grocery store. Start talking about finances now, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and you should each be able to learn from the other’s expertise.
Continue an ongoing discussion
Once you have the money talk, you can’t simply cross it off the list. Instead, strengthen your relationship by scheduling more talks throughout the course of your marriage. Plenty of things change in a couple’s financial picture such as salary, spending habits and investment returns. The money talk should be an ongoing discussion, in which both parties feel fully comfortable bringing it up any time. My marriage ended in divorce, and money was one of the main points of contention — I certainly won’t make that mistake again. Take the advice of someone who’s been there, and start laying the groundwork for a financially healthy marriage today.
Have you had the money talk with your partner? Do you have a financial plan set for your family?
About the author
David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers, where he writes about personal finance, lifestyle and family relationships.