Tips: Money and Marriage
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2005
For many couples money is a touchy topic. There is no one right answer or formula for everyone. How to deal with money situations and what to do if you and your partner are not aligned is a challenge. Therefore, it is important to make an effort to recognize an imbalance, communicate, and make one another feel more comfortable.
For a really strong relationship to thrive, the focus should not be about money. The BALANCE of the relationship (rather than the balance sheet) is what is vital to the flourishing of a marriage. When things get out of balance, trouble brews. The key for all couples is to resist outside pressures of what is expected and create what works for them.
Here are some TIPS for you and your partner to discuss on the topic of money.
• Find out if either of you is uncomfortable talking about issues related to money.
• Determine and designate income, savings and debt that is "ours", "yours" and "mine" and how to adjust if circumstances change.
• Focus on each other's "financial" strengths and build trust in each other's ability to make sound financial decisions. One of you might be a "numbers" person and can balance the checkbook while the other may be better at overseeing financing/investing decisions.
• Discuss how you feel about being equal partners in your relationship regardless of who makes more money. Determine how much decision making authority each of you should have.
• Have financial and lifestyle goals and map out a plan on how to achieve them.
• Encourage each other's growth and career development with an awareness of the amount of money those career choices will reap.
• Discuss any future plans to take time off work to attend school or pursue other interests and who would be financially responsible.
• Make a plan for raising a family. Who will work full time, part time or not at all? Determine what you will save and pay for, for example your children's education, their first car, etc. Think about how you will share household chores and child care.
• Make a household budget both of you are comfortable with. What percentage of your income goes to necessities, discretionary spending and savings? Determine if you'll have one budget (sharing all income and expenses) or more budgets (household and individual accounts).
• Discuss the need for a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement as soon as possible. Delay in bringing up the subject only adds stress to the relationship.
• Money matters should be private. Be aware of potential problems when discussing financial issues with parents.
• Earmark what portion of your income is for charity and helping others.
The goal is not that you and your partner agree on everything, but that each partner feels valued, heard, understood and appreciated. Review your financial commitments periodically to see they accurately reflect your present points of view.