The following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two. To read more about how she tries to live a balanced life visit her website at Moderate Muse.
No one gets married thinking that their marriage will end. Everyone wants to believe that their marriage will stand the tests of time, that their marriage is one for the storybooks. Once the wedding day rush and the honeymoon period start to fade, though, the stresses of life, family, and finances can slowly chip away at your marital bliss.
Most couples enter into marriage having seen at least a few of the statistics regarding money, marriage, and divorce rates. Knowing that money and financial matters can cause serious relationship problems is the first step to preventing them from doing so. Instead of letting your marriage become another statistic, preemptively take steps to protect your marriage from the driving wedge of finances.
There are endless reasons for couples to decide that their lives will be better spent apart. Don’t let finances be one of those reasons. Ask these questions and use these tools to help you and your spouse strengthen and build a financially fit marriage of accountability, honesty, and shared financial goals.
Do you have the same financial goals?
You can’t fix something if you don’t know that it is broken. Unless you have clearly outlined financial goals, how will you be able to work towards those goals as a couple?
Discuss your financial goals as individuals and as a couple. What are you working towards, and why are you saving? Do you want to retire early or do you enjoy your work enough that you want to keep working as long as possible? How much money are you and your spouse willing to set aside for retirement out of each paycheck?
Ask your spouse where they see themselves 5, 10, 25, or 40 years down the road. Are the money decisions that you’re making going to work in favor of accomplishing those goals?
Separate or joint accounts?
Some couples swear by having separate accounts, and some couples swear by having joint accounts. Just because a method worked well for a friend or family member doesn’t mean that it will work for you or your marriage.
Maybe you started your honey-moon phase of marriage blissfully joined in matrimony and money. After a few years though, a joint account may not work as well anymore. If you find that joint accounts are causing stress, arguments, and accusations, then separating your finances could be the key to preventing your marriage from separating. Maybe you’re the opposite, and you started your marriage with separate accounts. As time goes on, however, you realize that it would be best for your marriage and your finances to have joint accounts.
Whether you decide to have joint or separate accounts, know that your decision doesn’t have to be final. Your marriage will evolve over the years and so should your finances. Do whatever makes the most sense for you as a couple, and don’t let other people convince you that your method of dealing with money in your marriage is wrong.
Who will manage the budget?
Will you or your spouse be primarily in charge of the finances? Decide as a couple if one person will primarily be managing the budget. If one spouse earns the majority of the money coming in, then the other spouse might feel that their financial contribution to the marriage lies in managing the home finances. Perhaps you both want to manage your own money separately but sit down to pay the central bills like the mortgage and utilities together.
Whatever you decide works best for your marriage, make sure that you are on the same page with your spouse about financial expectations. It’s the breakdown in communication that leads to fights about who was supposed to pay the water bill.
My husband and I have found finance dates to be an incredibly useful and empowering tool for getting on the same page financially. Once a month, after the kids are asleep, we pour ourselves glasses of wine and sit down to discuss our finances. We analyze our budget, look over the last month’s numbers, and try to set new financial goals together.
For us, finance dates are about accountability and honesty. It’s a time to seriously scrutinize our budget and spend quality time together. Finance dates require a lot of trust, patience, real communication, and dialogue.
If you have never had one, you should seriously consider scheduling a finance date. Confront your financial issues head-on by having a scheduled time to discuss money, financial goals, and budget issues with your spouse.
Use your finances to build a strong marriage
Thirty years down the line, your life, experiences, and goals will have changed both you and your spouse into different people than the couple that said “I do.” Instead of getting blindsided by the person your spouse became, try to change together. Be open and honest about your goals so that you can work towards achieving those goals together. Try to be flexible and willing to mold your marriage into something new. Instead of letting your finances drive a wedge between you, use them as a tool to make your marriage stronger.
How long have you been married? How often do you and your spouse discuss finances? What tools do you use to make money work in your favor for a stronger marriage?