Financial Unity in Marriage

young black couple on sofa drinking coffee

Money doesn’t have to come between you.

Statistics show that the leading cause of divorce, second only to infidelity, is money problems. It should come as no surprise that two people who come together may have different backgrounds and differing opinions about spending and financial goals. Given this, they may face certain challenges dealing with money.

Maybe you’ve heard one of these complaints (or thought them yourself):

  • My wife spends too much.
  • My husband makes expensive decisions without consulting me first.
  • After Christmas, we always fight over the credit card bill.
  • My husband seems a little uncomfortable because my salary is higher than his.
  • She wants to donate money to charities, but I don’t think we have enough to give at this time.
  • I feel like he’s nickel and diming me to death.
  • Our family faces constant medical bill stress. Will we ever get to a good place?
  • We are so tired of the stress of living paycheck to paycheck.
  • We can’t seem to agree on investments and retirement goals.

We’d like to encourage you and your spouse by letting you know you’re not alone! Every married couple struggles to see eye-to-eye from time to time. But there is hope! Here are three things you can do to help improve your financial outlook as a couple.

Agree on a financial account setup

When you marry someone, you keep your individuality while at the same time becoming one entity. You’re stronger and better together than you are apart! (That’s one reason you got married, right?) It goes without saying that you’ll need to come to an agreement and a high level of trust about your financial accounts. Here are some popular options to consider:

  • Pool all your money into joint accounts — Many couples decide to put every cent of both of their incomes into joint checking and savings accounts (with the savings being set aside for important plans and emergencies). This couple avoids labeling their incomes as “my money” and “your money.” Instead, it’s “our money.” Every cent that comes in belongs to the household, and every cent that is spent is spent for the household.
  • Keep your income in your own separate accounts — Some experts suggest that keeping separate accounts fosters distrust and disunity. Others say that having separate accounts prevents arguments about money-spending habits. If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to decide who is going to pay for what, as far as joint expenses, such as the mortgage, car payments, insurance, medical expenses, children’s sports and tuition fees, etc.
  • Maintain a joint account for household expenses and separate accounts for personal spending — This may seem like the best of both worlds for you! The bulk of your incomes would be placed in the joint household account, while an agreed upon amount would be placed in your two personal spending accounts. You’ll need to decide how much money you both contribute to the joint fund, and you may want to set up guidelines about your personal accounts. It’s completely up to you to tailor your plan to fit your personalities and goals.

Consider these options individually and then come together and share openly and honestly what you think and how you feel about each of the options. Perhaps make a list of pros and cons about each option. As you grow in your relationship, you may decide to handle your accounts differently, and that’s okay! The important thing is that you clearly communicate and come to a mutual decision about what is best for your family.

Communicate your financial goals

Ideally, this is a good thing to discuss before you tie the knot. But, in every stage of life, it’s a healthy habit to discuss your current financial situation and wishes for the future.

You married this person for many wonderful reasons, one of which is that he or she makes you a better person. You complement one another! Perhaps s/he is more of a planner and thrifty, and you are more carefree and generous. It’s a good idea to remember why you fell in love with your spouse and use your individual strengths to your mutual advantage, thereby balancing one another.

To accomplish this, take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses. Capitalizing on your strengths as individuals will make you a stronger couple. Speak in gentleness as you temper your honesty with respect toward your mate’s unique qualities.

To encourage clear communication, we’re going to provide some useful questions. You can certainly address these questions as a couple, but it might actually be best to answer individually and then come together to share your answers. (That way, you won’t influence your partner’s response!)

  • Would you diagnose our financial health as weak, average or strong?
  • How would you describe our spending history: wise or frivolous?
  • Are you content with how we are using our finances?
  • What are the top three home improvements you would like to work on in the next two years?
  • Where do you picture us being financially in 5/10/15/20 years?
  • Do you trust me to spend our money wisely?
  • What do you like/dislike about how I treat our finances?
  • What is one thing you really want to purchase/invest in, and how can I help you achieve that goal?

When you come together to share and compare your answers, be sure to set a cheerful tone. Choose a low-stress time (not right before the holidays, during a stressful time at work, when you have a newborn or during a time of illness). Try to be well-rested! Perhaps you can meet at your favorite coffee shop. Or, if you are going to stay at home, put on some relaxing music and sip your favorite beverage while you talk openly.

It might be uncomfortable at first, because finances tend to be very personal! But the discussion will be worth it in the long run.

Decide on a budget together

Once you have thoroughly discussed and come to an agreement about your financial goals, you can decide on your budget .  Along with working through the actual dollar amounts, it may be helpful to communicate how strongly you plan to stick to that budget.

Here’s a valuable exercise to help you launch that discussion. (Again, do this separately and then come together to share your point of view.) Each of you should think of three adjectives that describe the way you view your budget. Complete the phrase “I consider our budget to be….” What are some descriptive words you might use? Here are a few ideas:

  • Fluid
  • Strict
  • Flexible
  • Disciplined
  • Bendable
  • Rock solid

Marriage includes compromise! You may not always agree, but you can share the best of your points of view and come up with an agreeable plan together. Then you build trust and encourage marital harmony by keeping to what you agreed upon!

Help is available

Money doesn’t need to be a difficult topic to discuss. You’ll reap countless rewards if you commit to respect one another’s opinions and make your relationship a priority. If you become stressed out while trying to come up with a mutually agreed-upon plan, seek out a reputable marriage counselor. (There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help!) Due to the high number of divorces related to financial matters, most marriage counselors are able to compassionately provide practical ideas in this area.

And don’t forget about us! Our financial counselors can help you decide on the best strategy for your situation. (Never hesitate to ask us for financial advice!) We want the best for you and your family.