Getting married is one of the greatest days of our lives, but it’s also one of the most nerve-wrecking decisions you can make. It’s easy for self-doubt to creep in as you prepare for living with someone else for the rest of your life.
One thing that terrified me was the reality that money problems are the number one cause of divorce. Citibank released a survey that revealed 57% of all marriages end due to money issues. They can include:
-Not communicating openly about money issues.
-Dishonest about money.
-Some type of power struggle over who controls the money.
-Stress when money is tight or someone loses a job.
-Not saving for an emergency.
-Potential lack of self-worth if the family isn’t making enough money or considers themselves poor.
These are all issues that can happen to any family. Before we married, I sat down with my fiancée to hammer out the details. You may already be married or single, but this article is still important for when that time comes to have that discussion.
Jordan Sowhangar, certified financial planner from the investment company Univest, agrees that couples need to put together some type of agreement.
“Have everything in writing, and set expectations about debt and income beforehand,” he said.
The worst thing you can do is get well into the relationship or marriage and find some major financial incompatibilities.
“Say someone is used to spending $200 a month on eating out. The other person loves cooking, going to farmers’ markets and wants to eat in every night,” Sowhangar said. If you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, that’s something that needs to be addressed early.
Here are six simple steps we took before we got married:
1) Agree to Talk It Out
This might seem like a simple proposition, but it can be the biggest step you take in keeping your marriage as peaceful as possible. If most couples have spats about money, coming to an agreement is important.
The fact that you’re breeching the subject takes a lot of courage, as most people don’t like to talk about money. Don’t wait until you mush your budgets together to get this done. To find out your money type, do online quizzes. Write down independently what your money habits are and compare notes.
It’s important to be 100% honest in your assessment and to talk about your goals, both short-term and long-term. And if you find that neither of you are particularly good at saving money, you should make sure you get in some financial counseling before saying, “I do!”
2) You’re Going to Have to Compromise
The worst thing you can do is going into this meeting ready to set the rules according to your standards. It can be difficult to find two people who are so financially compatible that they agree on everything. It probably won’t happen and you’ll have to compromise. Your partner will also have to compromise.
The first thing you can do is admit that you make some mistakes. Your style isn’t 100% perfect and without error. You might find different things you have to work on after taking an assessment.
If you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, then you will have to work out a budget that keeps both styles in mind. Any relationship will be give-and-take, so figure out a way to work it out between you.
3) Don’t Stop Talking to Each Other
The worst thing you can do is get complacent. Just having that one talk at the beginning won’t be enough.
“This isn’t a one-time conversation before you move in. Talk about it weekly, monthly or quarterly. The goal is to lay everything out on the table so there are no surprises,” said Sowhangar.
The reality is, your life is going to change. Your budget will change. The economy is a rollercoaster full of good and bad times. Retirement savings will be different. Investments can dip or surge. Your financial future is unpredictable. Even the richest have lost it all.
You can be prepared for all contingencies by having regular discussions. Plan your monthly budget accordingly. We did this regularly before we married and plan to do it long after.
4) Decide to Share Responsibilities
You and your partner may make differing amounts of money. That’s why often doing the 50/50 method of sharing might not work in one of your favors. If you make $60,000 per year and your partner makes $25,000, what’s fair in sharing the bills 50/50? Of course, hopefully your partner DOES want to contribute to the family.
So, the best way to do this is to delegate responsibilities when deciding to pay the bills. Another thing to keep in mind is who is doing most of the work. If your partner is doing the cooking, the shopping, and the cleaning, you might be glad to take on a larger portion of the bills.
This is especially true if you’re a stay-at-home parent, which studies have shown is like holding down two full-time jobs, with none of the pay or benefits. But, in today’s America, it’s difficult to get by without both partners working.
This should also fall under the compromise section as well, because you might end up having to take the higher share of the bill paying if you make more money.
5) Don’t Fully Combine Accounts
If your partner works and makes money, they may feel trapped if suddenly you both combine your bank accounts and they have no freedom to spend any of their money. Yes, it’s probably easier to get a joint account and pay all your bills from that, but it’s not good to stifle your partner’s ability to make their own decisions.
It also provides an option to protect yourself. There’s no shame in admitting that sometimes, couples get crazy and do stupid things. They can get mad and decide to clean out the account or run up a credit card bill. To allow each individual to have their own account and use a joint account for rent, groceries, or other shared bills is the safest option.
6) Don’t Forget the Will
Accidents happen and people die. It’s one of the two things that you can expect in this life, that and taxes. Even if you’re not married but in a serious relationship where you move in together, it’s a good idea to have a legal document written up. Who gets your money? What possessions belong to which person? What about the rest of your family?
These are questions that often get fought over in court after a loved one passes away. Protect yourself, your partner, and the rest of your family by having a will.