David Bakke is a financial contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance. While his marriage did not last, he is now able to share his tips for how to best manage money and a relationship.
As you scramble to plan your wedding on a budget, your life becomes filled with an endless list of things to do: Order flowers and food for the reception, finalize the guest list and send out invitations, purchase a cake, get a wedding dress or tuxedo, and more. However, if you have not yet done so, having the “money talk” with your soon-to-be-spouse should trump all of these in importance. Money is a leading cause of divorce in this country, so you would be well-suited to have this discussion with your significant other as soon as possible.
Why You Should Have a Money Talk
Below are some of the most important reasons to have the “money talk” and put into practice money management tips for newly married couples.
1. Understand Money Beliefs
There are two types of people in this world when it comes to money: spenders and savers. It’s possible for a spender and a saver to coexist, but if you don’t know what your partner’s mindset is, you could be setting yourself up for disaster. Money is usually a sensitive subject, but you’ve got to overcome this obstacle and find a way to talk about it in an honest and frank manner.
2. Establish Rules for Disputes
Invariably, there will be arguments about money in your married life, even if you’re incredibly rich or just hit the lottery. Therefore, you’ll want to set up guidelines as to how these discussions will be handled. Some good starter points would be to never raise your voice, never judge, let each party have their say without interruption, and most importantly, never let arguments fester. If you can’t come to an agreement on a financial issue before you turn in, at least schedule a time in the near future to finish up the discussion.
3. Assign Responsibility
You’ll also want to clearly establish who will actually pay the bills once you’re a couple. Winging it just isn’t going to cut it. Whichever party is more adept at numbers and more responsible regarding due dates should take on the task.
Beyond that, decide who will be in charge of all retirement and investment accounts going forward, and who will take care of filing taxes. It’s best to share responsibility evenly and to keep each other regularly updated on a weekly basis.
4. Build a Stronger Relationship
When both parties know what is expected regarding money, it can only make for a closer relationship. Having the money talk will break down barriers between the two of you, and allow you to discuss the topic openly and without fear of stepping on the other’s toes. Once you can make money an easy subject to discuss, you’ll find yourself more drawn to and more appreciative of your significant other.
The Importance of Having a Money Plan
After you have the money talk, make an effort to create a “money plan” by creating a joint budget for your life as a couple. This is a little more complex than if you were creating one just for yourself.
Among other things, decide whether you’ll merge your finances, and establish spending limits and rules for when permission is needed for large purchases. Moreover, the key strategy behind any successful budget is spending less than you make. This is serious stuff and should not be taken lightly. My marriage ended in divorce, and the number one reason why it didn’t succeed was financial infidelity and arguments regarding money.
Once you’ve established the basic parameters of how your finances will be handled, address other topics, such as investing and saving for retirement. If you’ve already had the money talk, these items should be easily addressed, with both parties contributing their thoughts, ideas, and mindsets. If you keep the lines of communication open, there’s no reason why you and your partner can’t tackle these issues and enjoy a long-lasting marriage.
Do you regularly discuss finances with your significant other? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?