Money touches every area of our lives, including marriage. A study by the American Psychological Association found that 72% of Americans have felt stressed about money. Financial stress can be devastating to a marriage — but with proper communication and commitment to change, it doesn’t have to be. Here are 6 ways for how to avoid money problems in marriage (and strengthen your relationship in the process!):
1. Share your money stories and beliefs.
Tension can occur when the two individuals within a marriage have differing financial beliefs. For example, one partner might believe you can never have enough money. This person might be more inclined to save versus spend and could be seen as being stingy or judgmental. Or perhaps one partner believes money should be enjoyed. This person might have trouble reigning in their spending.
Be open with your spouse about how you were raised to think about money and how that has impacted the way you view spending and saving. Avoid discussing specific numbers at first. Understanding what your money personality is and how that affects your decision making with money is an important first step in creating a healthy approach to money within a marriage.
2. Share your money goals!
Working together to meet money goals can be extremely rewarding! Dig into what you value and how you want your money to work for you. Commit to supporting one another in reaching your goals — whether each person sets an individual goal (paying off student loans, for example) or you’re working together to buy a home or save for a vacation.
3. Set a regular date for discussing your finances.
Does the thought of reviewing your accounts make your stomach turn? Having a consistent date on the calendar for reviewing finances with your spouse will ultimately help you feel more informed and secure. (Aim for monthly dates at first, and then move to quarterly dates once you’re in the groove.)
This is a good time to review your money habits. There’s usually a spender and a saver in a marriage, and that can create tension. Remember: you can choose to be on the same team as your partner and grow together financially, or you can allow discomfort and frustration to create a wedge in your relationship.
4. Create a plan for paying bills.
Will you have a joint account with your spouse, separate accounts, or both? There’s no one correct way to approach this — all couples are different, and you should make this decision together. Regardless, both partners should have a clear understanding of how bills are being paid, whether one person pays the mortgage and the other pays utilities, or your joint account is used for all of the bills. Go through your bill payment plan at least once a quarter to ensure you’re both on the same page.
5. Weave money conversations into your relationship.
Practice talking through your financial decisions with your spouse. “Should we take that $5,000 vacation? Let’s talk about the pros and cons”. Help each other weigh things out, whether you’re discussing a new streaming service, gym membership, or car payment. These types of conversations are different from the monthly or quarterly “money date” we mentioned earlier. Learning how to talk about money in low-key, low-stress situations will help you feel more comfortable talking about stressful money situations, should any arise.
6. Be honest about your financial situation.
Money issues are a common source of dissatisfaction in marriage and they are a leading cause of divorce. In a healthy, committed relationship, each partner needs to have total transparency with their spouse. Share any money-related passwords and documents to decrease the chance of financial infidelity. If you and your spouse struggle with judging one another over spending decisions, agree on a fixed amount of “play money” that each person is allowed to spend (or save) each month.
Are you in a committed relationship that is heading towards marriage? Start having money conversations before you walk down the aisle. You’re about to say “I do” to a person. Are you prepared to say “I do” to his or her debt or unhealthy money habits? These conversations will give you the clarity and confidence you need to know if you’re prepared to move forward together. Own your mistakes and commit to better habits. Take proactive steps to not bring any unhealthy patterns into a marriage!
A past that has had financial problems does not mean a future of money challenges. You can build trust by instilling and sticking to open communication. You’re on your way to enjoying money harmony within your marriage!