We fall in love and pledge to our spouse “For better or worse…For richer or poorer” and all too often couples find themselves struggling
with the poorer part of that.
In fact, experts cite money as the leading cause of stress in relationships and research suggests that the way you handle money is a strong predictor of whether you’ll have a long-lasting marriage.
I’m going to break down finances in marriage so that you know how to prepare, overcome and deal with financial frustration so it doesn’t ruin your marriage. No matter what stage of marriage you’re in, how much money you have or how much debt you’ve accumulated, there is something here for you.
Start the Convo Before You Tie The Knot
Communication is essential for a long lasting marriage and should start before you tie the knot. I strongly suggest discussing finances prior to walking down the aisle. This might be uncomfortable for some but it’s best for everyone to have a good understanding of where you are at financially and the expectations you have for each other. Figure out if one is the spender and one is the saver. This will bring you together in the long run of the same financial goals.
Don’t Go Into Debt For The Wedding
One big mistake couples make starting out is spending too much money on the wedding. Many couples start out with debt just to pay for this celebration. Those with limited budgets might consider doing something smaller and save the big party for an anniversary or vow renewal on down the road when better off financially.
Create a Budget
Having a budget is the most effective way to keep track of money, establish financial goals and ensure everyone is on the same page. Having a budget can prevent marriage trouble later on and keeps everything out in the open. If you are unsure where to start there are free resources online and apps you can take advantage of, for some, having a financial advisor might be the route to go.
Set Financial Goals Once a Year
Sit down with your spouse at least once a year and discuss finances. People and priorities change as time goes by and it’s important for couples to align their spending habits and goals. It’s important to do this even if only one spouse is generating income. Often the non-working spouse feels guilty about not contributing or the working spouse may feel resentment.
Coming together with open honest communication is a key component to having a successful marriage. (If at all possible, I recommend that the non-working spouse does something to generate money on their own, even if a small amount. Selling stuff on eBay or craigslist, yard sales or paid surveys etc.)
Do Not Keep Secrets
Do NOT keep secrets from your spouse! Hiding things, including money or spending from your spouse, leads to a lack of trust and creates deeper marital issues. Make sure that both spouses have access to emergency cash and set ground rules for spending that you both can agree to and stick to it.
For couples that are already struggling, it can be as simple as acknowledging and agreeing that what you’ve done up to this point isn’t working and recommitting to working together to find a solution. Spend some time identifying where the money goes, who will manage the money, establish a budget and make long-term plans.
If you are overwhelmed with debt it’s time to take action. At this point, nothing positive will come out of placing blame. You’re in this together as a couple and it’s up to you to work together to resolve it. Start by reducing spending, limit spending to only the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. Make your minimum payments required to maintain your home and vehicle.
I would spend some time contacting your creditors and seeing what arrangements you can make to reduce payments. Look for ways to make money on the side for extra cash. You can’t pay off that debt overnight but you can start to make progress over the course of a couple of months.
You might want to consider working with a debt management consultant if you’re unable to meet your minimum monthly payments. Through time and commitment, you can overcome financial woes.
Marriage can be trying especially when complicated with money issues but communicating openly with your spouse, supporting each other and working together to head off any issues will strengthen your marriage and bring you closer together.