Some surveys have shown that the number two reason for marriage to break up is annoying habits. And the number one reason? It’s money issues. In fact, it easily beats out annoying habits. A study done by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis found that money problems were responsible for 22% of all divorces. This makes it the third leading cause of divorce. If you find that you and your significant other fight regularly over money this would certainly be an alarming statistic. However, money doesn’t have to lead to divorce. There are things you could do to keep your finances from destroying your relationship whether you’re about to say “I do” or thinking “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Reveal your demons
Regardless of how uncomfortable it might feel you need to disclose your financial situation with your significant other before getting married. This means revealing any outstanding debts, income sources, loans, investments and any other financial obligations or assets. And of course if you are already married and withholding this kind of information, it’s time to practice full disclosure.
Don’t spend more on your marriage than you can afford
One of the biggest mistakes couples make is setting themselves up for disaster by spending too much on their weddings. Believe it or not, a wedding costs on the average more than $26,000 and if you live in a big metropolitan area it can be two or three times that much. Since the majority of couples just starting out can’t afford to pay cash for their weddings they put it on their credit cards. This means going into debt for a one-day celebration. This can put them in a situation where they’re drowning in debt when just starting out life together. If you’re short of cash you don’t need to forgo your wedding festivities but you should do something smaller or find ways to make the wedding more affordable. Then stage a really big party for your fifth or 10th anniversary when your finances sfould be much better.
Understand your spouse’s money mindset
The author, Matt Bell, who wrote the book Money and Marriage says that fights about money are often not really about money at all. They’re because of a difference in mindsets. For example, one of the two of you may feel their partner is spending too much but the issue may not be that they can’t afford it. It could be something deeper such as a real fear that they won’t be able to pay their bills in the future. Michelle Perry Higgins, who has written several books on finances, says it’s important to understand how your spouse feels about money and how they were raised around it. Were your partner’s parents frugal or big spenders? Was your spouse required to live on a budget? Was money talked about or was the subject taboo? Do you know your spouse’s biggest fear about your finances? The answers to these questions all play into a marriage and how each partner treats money. If you have a problem discussing these things with your spouse, you might take an online quiz together. One of the best of these is the quiz on Money Harmony. It’s free and will help you determine whether you’re a spender, hoarder, avoider, money monk or an amasser. A test like this can be a fun way to get started talking about money and can add some levity to what otherwise might be a very tense topic.
Make sure you have the same goals
As they say, life happens, times goes by and peoples’ financial priorities and expectations can change. Trouble happens when you and your significant other forget to check to make sure you’re working on the same goals. It’s a good idea to sit down once a year and talk about what it is you’re working towards. You might find that your goal is to buy a vacation home while your spouse’s is to pay off debt. It’s especially important to have the same goals if only one of you generates the income. What sometimes happens is that the non-working spouse feels guilty about not making any financial contributions or the working one is resentful because he or she feels their money isn’t being spent wisely. It can be helpful if the non-working partner finds a way to earn some income on the side even if it’s not much. This could be anything from having a garage sale to selling items on eBay or being an online juror. The amount of money doesn’t really matter. What matters is that when the non-working spouse starts to earn some money she or he will feel more powerful.
Use the awful “B word”
The cold, hard truth is that you need to have a household budget. It’s the only way to keep control of your money. While this can feel mind numbing there are significant benefits to having one. One of the most important of these is that it prevents the marital turbulence that can happen when one or both of you is in the dark about how your money is being spent. The only good news about the “B word” is that it’s now much easier thanks to technology. There are a huge number of online apps and tools that will track your spending for you. Mint is one of the most popular of these. It will track your spending, help you create a budget and keep track of your accounts and transactions so you can see exactly what you’re doing. It will also categorize your spending to give you a better idea of where your money is going. If you’re interested in learning more about Mint here’s a tutorial that will help you better understand how it works and what it could do for you,
There are many other great programs and websites designed to help you track and budget your spending so you might want to do a little research to find which one would be the best for you.
Don’t keep secrets
Possibly the fastest track to marital mayhem is when one spouse keeps secrets from the other. And despite what you might think this is not uncommon. About 7% of our country’s population or around 6 million consumers have financial accounts they’ve concealed from their spouses or significant others, which includes credit cards, checking accounts and savings accounts. And according to a poll done by CreditCards.com almost 20% of those surveyed have spent $500 or more without ever telling their partners. What often happens when one partner discovers that the other is hiding money or debt, war breaks out in the marriage. The website Moneysupermarket.com did a survey that found one in 10 people said their breakup or divorce was because of secret credit card purchases.
It may seem obvious that you should treat your spouse as you would want him or her to treat you. Unfortunately, it’s something that a lot of couples don’t remember to do, especially the longer they’re married. For example, there is the issue of how to argue about money. It might be okay to complain about something that your partner or spouse is doing but it’s not acceptable to use words that are patronizing or contemptuous. You should also not use negative labels like “irresponsible” to describe the other person’s behavior. Always keep in mind the old saying that it’s okay to hate the play but not the player. No matter how serious the disagreement becomes, try your best to stay civil and courteous. This is a much faster track to reaching agreement then would be a screaming fit.