Marriage and Money are two of the most important things in life! And sadly they can either reinforce one another or destroy one another.
Marriage and money are strange things, because people don’t like to talk about the realities of either subject very much. Most people also tend to think they know what they are doing in both areas, even when there is evidence to the contrary. I really do think that things held close and secret usually don’t add to our lives, I think we should be more open about money and about marriages. Who cares if we find out we are wrong? Wouldn’t you rather know?! It’s very likely that your honesty could help another person fix their situation or avoid a mistake you have made or give you insights from others to help make your situation better.
This subject is huge and I think there may be multiple posts on this theme, but here I just wanted to talk about alignment and communication.
When you marry someone, your first thought is not how they align with you on money. For some people it’s one of the last things, and its one of the hardest things to get a clear picture of before you take that big step. As with all relationships between two people, one person will be a little or a lot more of one thing or another. Someone will be the “cheaper” one, someone will be more of the “planner”, one will be more ambitious, one will be more charitable, and on and on. There is an endless source of arguments here for people that might be overlooked before you combine your households and incomes.
So what do we do about these things? Well I’m not an expert and I’d love to hear other peoples’ ideas but given this isn’t a huge problem for wife and I, I thought maybe I could offer a couple of points…
First – (this may be too late for most people but,) Talk about ALL aspects of your financial life BEFORE you get married… stuff like…
- How much do you save each month?
- What do think of as luxury versus need?
- How important are vacations and how much is okay to spend on them?
- How much do you give to charity or your church?
- When do you want to retire?
- How important is a big house?
- How important are nice clothes, how much are nice clothes to you ($50 jeans or $400 jeans)?
- What is an okay amount to spend on a car? Do you buy used or new?
- How knowledgeable are each of you about money (saving, retirement, investments, taxes, budgeting, etc)?
- What is each of your families’ history with money?
- Where do you see differences already? How do you plan to deal with that?
- What are your money aspirations?
- How do you view money in your life?
- How much control do you need or want over the shared finances?
Second – For the rest of us, who are already married, what should we be doing?
Goals – Setting goals together is important. Having a shared goal that both partners are working towards can be a very unifying thing! Sit down figure out exactly what you want to do as a couple, and then lay out a plan and both set to work doing it and getting back together to see how its going. To be honest in my wife’s and I’s relationship (as you would imagine,) I’m the one with the big financial goals in mind because that’s what I do, but we both sit down and try to talk about where we are financially once a quarter just so I’m accountable to her and she participates in the process as much as possible.
Communicating expenses – If you’re keeping a money thing secret from your spouse SOMETHING IS WRONG! Ya your spouse might be overly cheap :), but not discussing what you spent your money on is a recipe for decay in the relationship. You should be willing to face the wrath of your partner 🙂 or even better talk about it BEFORE you spend the money! Keeping secrets like that means something much bigger might be wrong in the relationship.
Partnership – Realize your relationship is an equal partnership and you are not just room mates. I’ve seen multiple couples who seem to view their spouse as a roommate and not a lifelong partner in everything. There are many ways to organize your joint finances and its probably a subject for different post, but everything should be seen through the eye of a true partnership, with the grace needed to make that work. If you can’t see yourself doing that, I really would not get married (if you already are… maybe counseling and possibly a financial adviser?).
Like I said, this subject is HUGE and this post is already super long so I’ll stop there but what are your thoughts on these things? What kind of mistakes have you seen couples make? What great ideas have you seen when it comes to this?