by Michael J. Swanson
hen you say your wedding vows, you and your spouse are promising to be a team in all aspects of life, including your finances. It can be challenging, but here are some strategies to help you work together in your financial life.
- Maintain Joint Bank Accounts and Credit Cards.
If you come together “as one”, it should be in all ways, including financially. Having joint bank accounts and credit cards brings your debts, income and savings together. Joint financial accounts make it more convenient to equally track and maintain expenses and it provides a legal and financial safety net if one spouse is to unfortunately become ill or pass away.
- Talk Regularly About Money.
Have an open dialogue about how you will approach financial situations such as debt, investing, everyday spending, saving, emergencies and bills. Set a regular meeting at least quarterly to discuss your finances. A January recap with your financial advisor is helpful. Finances should never be a topic that you shy away from in a marriage. You should never hide money, purchases or debt from your spouse.
- Ideally, Review the Budget Together.
Create a budget and review it together each month. If you don’t do a budget, set a monthly meeting to at least read the checkbook and credit card statements together.
- Divide and Conquer Tasks.
Don’t let one spouse carry all the burden for managing finances. Divide and conquer the tasks together. Opposites often attract. If your spouse is the “numbers person” in the marriage, don’t use that as an excuse not to be informed about your joint finances. Take the time to review everything together regularly so that you are both on the same page.
- Set Spending Limits.
Large, unexpected purchases can be a point of contention in a marriage, so it is important to agree that neither of you will spend more than X dollars without consulting the other. Setting a guideline for spending can help prevent unpleasant surprises.
- Never Go into Debt Alone.
Agree you will never apply for a credit card or other debt without discussing it first. Decisions that influence your finances should not be made alone.
- Don’t Use Spending as a Weapon.
If you are in a fight, never use spending as a weapon. “I’ll show her, I’ll go blow a bunch of money on X,” should never be a strategy for winning a fight. This will only cause more problems instead of solving them.
- Don’t Discriminate Based Upon Income.
Agree up front that the spouse that makes the most income does not have a higher priority in the marriage or in financial decisions. Once you pool your money together, it is all yours equally. If you are the higher earning spouse, don’t hold that over your partner’s head.
- Hire a Financial Planner.
Financial planners can be a great resource. They can also be helpful as a referee if you have a major disagreement. Air your financial disagreements out with your advisor and ask for their input. Don’t have a financial planner yet? The Certified Financial Planner Board is a great place to start: www.cfp.net.
The heart of a successful marriage is communication and compromise! You will most likely have a financial disagreement at some point during your married life, but it’s always important to remember that you are in this together. United you will stand, divided you may fall!