While couples often argue over the silliest things – from leaving clothes on the floor to not taking out the trash – fights over finances should be taken seriously. One of the biggest causes of divorce in the U.S. is money problems. A survey of Certified Divorce Financial Analyst professionals found 22 percent of couples divorce due to issues with finances, which could worsen the conflicts they have at home.
Here are five ways to reduce the financial stress of marriage:
1. Communicate About Finances Regularly
Great marriages are built on solid communication. Effectively managing money also requires a constant stream of communication between the two of you. Hiding money problems does not make financial issues go away and could exacerbate them in the long run. If you default on credit obligations or incur late fees, this could further make problems worse and put you deeper in the hole. It's better to talk about the good, bad and ugly about finances, even when discussing debt.
Here are potential topics for discussion:
- Debt. Most couples have some kind of debt between them, whether that's from credit cards, auto loans or student loans. But not revealing this debt until you're in dire financial straits could cause hurt feelings in your relationship with your spouse. Having this debt out in the open could give you time to plan to pay off the debt together and prevent feelings of betrayal.
- Expensive items. Have a serious talk before making any big-ticket purchases like an expensive appliance or a car. The same should go for durable goods. Since furniture and other items will be sticking around for a long time, couples should talk about how they should spend their money.
- Future financial plans. You may have different monetary values and goals for yourselves individually and as a couple so it's crucial to bring these to light as well.
Set up a time to talk on a regular basis about where you are with your spending and budget.
2. Plan a Budget
With a budget, you have a financial roadmap of your bills, income and how you'll meet your objectives. Start off by going over your goals, such as paying off debt, buying a house, raising kids together or moving somewhere else for retirement. As this will take some considerable planning, look at how much you spend each month on bills and other expenses and how much is left over for you to save. Calculating your savings each month could bring you closer to achieving your dreams as a married couple. Also, think about any unexpected costs that could pop up and prepare for these situations with an emergency fund.
3. Keep Track of Your Spending and Saving Habits
You like the same movies, books and music, but does that mean you're financially compatible? Couples who have very different ideas about how they spend and save could create rifts in their marriage if they are not on the same page. Make sure to track your spending frequently because every penny counts. Use online or mobile tools to monitor your spending wherever you go. Since these tools make it easy to see every dollar and purchase, you could choose to go over this information with your spouse.
4. Realize Where You Disagree and Compromise
It's normal to have disagreements, but if both of you are unwilling to compromise for the sake of your marriage, this is a troubling sign. It might be beneficial to see where you disagree about money and how you can come to an agreement. The issue of joint bank accounts is a good example of how to consider compromises.
When you want the freedom of an individual bank account rather than putting all your funds into a joint account, you could decide to have the best of both worlds. Have individual accounts where you can deposit your paycheck and still spend money on small purchases for yourself. In addition, set up a joint bank account that you will put money in only for things that require large sums or payments, like big ticket items and emergency funds.
5. Avoid Having a Power Struggle Over Money
There's a saying that money is power. When one spouse is the prime breadwinner, he or she tends to also be the main person making decisions in the household. Even as one spouse makes more money than the other, try to avoid facing a power struggle over money. Small disagreements about where their income should go toward can lead to big arguments. However, honesty in a relationship can help couples have a long and happy marriage, and this also applies to talking about money.
If you still disagree about money, it might be time to call in a financial planner, who can work with both of you on meeting your goals, whether that's reducing debt or optimizing your income.