Ten healthy habits to adopt with your spouse
An open channel of communication is crucial for any healthy relationship. The same can be said about a couple’s finances.
In fact, studies show that fighting about money early in a marriage is a predictor of divorce later on.1
But too often, spouses avoid talking about money. Different money styles and even cultural norms get in the way. Use these steps to get on the same page with your partner about finances and keep the lines of communication open.
Be honest from the beginning
Build a solid foundation for your relationship by laying out your finances early. You don’t need to share your salary or how much Grandma Edith left you in her will on a first date. But by the time things become serious—and certainly by the time you’re living together—each partner should know the other’s assets and liabilities. Make a list of everything you own and owe, and share it with your significant other.
Often, when couples talk about money, they’re not really talking about money. They’re talking about bigger, deeper issues. If you’re having a hard time sticking to your saving goals, give yourselves some motivation by expressing the hopes and dreams that your savings will enable. Is it a home of your own? Sending your children to college or something more fundamental, like financial security?
Make a financial plan
Once you know what you’re working toward and why, start putting together a plan that will get you there. Of course things happen along the way that might require you to change course, but a financial plan gives you a general roadmap.
Schedule a money talk
You schedule dentist appointments, coffee meetings, even a workout, so why not put a date on the calendar to talk money with your significant other too? A monthly money check in doesn’t need to tackle every item on your to-do list, but it will get you in the habit of talking money on a regular basis.
Divide, conquer and unify
While it’s important for each partner to have a defined money role in the family, like bill-paying or investing, both partners should be kept abreast of where things stand. In the event that the unexpected happens, each spouse needs to be able to step into the other’s role.
His, hers, ours
Marriage is about merging lives together, but that doesn’t mean you have to merge all your money too. Spouses need a sense of autonomy around money. Joint accounts for joint expenses and savings are crucial, but so are separate accounts where each spouse has free reign.
You and your spouse may have different levels of knowledge or experience around finance. Use it as an opportunity for the less knowledgeable partner to get up to speed. If you’re both starting from scratch, commit to learning about finances together by reading personal finance blogs and books.
Set budget goals, not constraints
No one likes feeling restricted by a budget, which can become a source of disagreement for couples. So adopt a more positive yet practical mindset instead. Try something like this, “Let’s spend $200 on our retirement savings and $100 on our vacation fund.”
Leverage the power of two
While married couples pay more in taxes than singles, you can maximize your money more when there are two of you. By pooling your resources, you can make a bigger down payment, qualify for better interest rates and even get more from Social Security at retirement.
Get some help
If money doesn’t come naturally to you, enlist the help of an expert, hopefully someone with experience working with couples and families. A financial advisor is a neutral third party who can help you articulate your goals and create a plan to get you where you want to go.
1 Dew, Jeffrey., Britt, Sonya., and Huston, Sandra. “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce.” Family Relations. Volume 61, Issue 4, pages 615–628, October 2012