The door slammed and two hours later, my husband came back with a giant all in one gym thingy from Sports Authority. As silly as it sounds now, that’s how a fight ended in the early years of our marriage. We used money as a weapon, and we each thought the other spent foolishly on things that were not a priority. According to a Kansas State University study published last year, money arguments are the number one predictor of divorce. And my hubby and I might have been among those statistics (instead of celebrating our 18th anniversary this year) had we not figured out a way to communicate about money.
Money Tips for Couples: Talk, Make Rules, & Share the Wealth
All You Do to Me is Talk, Talk
For some reason, finances have become an even more taboo subject than sex in our culture. As a financial counselor, I have talked to couples who didn’t know anything about each other’s financial situation before they got married. They didn’t know how much debt or income their partner had before (or even after) the wedding. Not only that, the “wooing period” is not conducive to learning about a significant other’s true spending habits.
No matter what stage you are at in the relationship, it’s absolutely crucial to talk about money. You don’t have to have joint accounts – although we do – but you should know how each of you feels about spending (and saving!). Are you on the same wavelength when it comes to saving for retirement? Vacationing? Saving for your kids’ college education? Car buying?
Rules of Engagement
It’s a good idea to have some rules for spending. They don’t need to be codified or set in stone, but each person in a relationship should have an idea of how much he or she can spend on their own without getting into serious hot water. Believe it or not, I knew a couple where the wife went out on her own and bought a car without her husband’s knowledge or participation. And I have a friend whose husband went TDY and came back with a motorcycle. These kinds of behaviors are not likely to cause warm, fuzzy feelings in a relationship.
Some for Me, Some for You
By far the best money/marriage move my husband and I made was to set up a discretionary account so each of us could have our own “mad” money. Although, as I mentioned above, we have joint checking and savings accounts, we also each have our own separate account with a debit card. Each month, we automatically transfer some money to our little personal accounts. We are free to spend that money on anything we want. So I no longer pester my husband about his iTunes and online gaming purchases. And I don’t have to feel guilty when I get craft supplies or venti nonfat lattes with an extra shot of espresso.
By stopping and taking a few minutes to communicate with your significant other about money, you can save a whole lot of grief (and unused gym equipment) later on. Believe me.
How do you make money work as a couple? Share your tips below!