We often hear that 50% of marriages end in divorce. This is actually an average based on first, second and third marriage statistics. According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, “The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%.” Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Quite often, we hear that it is because of arguing about three things, money, sex and children. There is even a book about it, “Money, Sex and Kids,” by Tina Tessina.
But did you know that, “Married Americans live longer, maintain better health, earn more money, are happier, and have happier children that do better in school. But the good news doesn’t stop there. Married people do better financially than singles, not because financially successful people get married, but because married people who behave as true financial partners do better financially. A healthy marriage promotes financial success.” (Waite and Gallagher 2000).
So, why do couples argue about money? There are many different reasons. For some money holds a different value, for others it is a means of security, others it is a source of power and for many it is also something you shouldn’t talk about as it is bad manners to discuss money. Another reason that couples may argue about money is that they have different expections, of security, savings and lifestyle. Lastly, quite often couples have different ideas about money and they never discussed them prior to marriage, as a result, they enter a marriage and later find out their differences of opinion on the subject. Why not discuss the finances prior to marriage? After all, we discuss how many children we want, if any, career paths, lifestyles, likes and dislikes, family and even negotiate holiday visits with family. Why not talk about money too?
How can couples avoid arguments about money?
First, go ahead talk about it before marriage. No, it is not romantic. Yes, you will probably disagree, but better to figure out all the “rules” to your financial relationship before the bloom wears off the marriage and the wedding party bills start to arrive. In most relationships, there is the person who is more interested in the day-to-day money matters and one who is less. Decide ahead of time who will be responsible for paying the monthly bills and debts so there are no misunderstandings later. Not much can start an argument faster than, “Did you pay the phone bill?” “No, I thought you did.”
In our case, my husband and I actually sat down before the marriage and worked out the day-to-day basics. We decided on who would pay the bills, and how much can be spent without discussing the matter (in our case $50.00). We discussed certain basic rules of courtesy regarding the money such as monthly updates and reports regarding our income and expenses, no spending larger than our set amount without discussion and all investment, savings, and large spending expenses (like a new TV or car) must be made jointly. It has been 6 years and yes, while we have our little comments here and there, we do not have arguments about money. After all, there are so many more interesting things to argue about right? Like sex and children.
So how can you talk to your spouse about money without arguing? I recommend these 10 tips:
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 1
Schedule a monthly “business meeting.” Put it on the calendar. Circle it in red. Place an alarm on your cell phone if you have too. Whatever it takes to get it scheduled and the two of you in one place.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 2
Be honest, open, and clear abour your expectations and find a meeting ground with your spouse or partner. You will not always get everything you want, but by stating expectations it is clear to both of you and you can strive to reach those goals you set, together.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Couple Tip 3
No distractions. Make sure the children are in bed, cell phones, home phones, television and radio are turned off. This way you can concentrate on the discussion at hand. If you have not already, at the first meeting discuss the basics such as an overview of your debts, your monthly income, your expenses, and who will pay what. Set up a budget and monthly goals. At the next meetings you can determine how well you are progressing to your goals.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Couple Tip 4
Come prepared. A calculator, pen, paper and the computer are really all you need, however the computer is optional. Bring to the table your month list of income and expenses and see what progress you have made since the last month.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 5
Choose a time where both of you are “awake”. In our house we are night owls so this works for us, but choose a time that both of you are wide-awake and ready to think clearly.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 6
Remember this as a business meeting. We are spouses and partners, but if you allow emotions or blame to come into the discussion (try to avoid, “Well we would have saved that if you hadn’t spent 2 hours and 45 minutes on long distance causing the bill to go over.”) If expenditures have been made that broke the agreement show how they affect the budget and what needs to be done to correct it for next month. No punishments (you have to pay this from your paycheck). You are partners in this relationship which let’s face it is a personal and business one. Later talk about how bad decisions regarding money affect you, so your partner can understand that you spending $200.00 on a new bike without discussing it first made you feel. Suggest next time that they save for it, or tell you they really need or want something and find a way to build that expense into the budget. Now is not the time though, keep emotions out of it. Be courteous, be respectful. After all these are “our” expenses, debts and income.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 7
Look over where your money is going each month. Do you have money going towards necessary items, entertainment, charity and investments or savings? If not it is a good time to find out what you can eleminate from your debt or monthly expenses so that you can have money for not only having fun as a family but to save for the future and even help others.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 8
Really, listen to what your partner is saying. Avoid jumping to conclusions, placing blame, bringing up past faults or throwing in old mishandling of money matters.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 9
Be willing to take “baby steps.” Changes are not going to occur overnight. Financial problems can take time to create and time to repair.
Talking about Money with your Spouse/Partner Tip 10
Do not take anything for granted. Let your partner know you appreciate the overtime so you or your family can purchase something. Let them know you appreciate the time they spent paying the bills while you were watching television. A thank you or a kiss on the cheek can go along way to letting them know how much you appreciate their efforts and hard work.
I think many couples will find that these tips, and hopefully our experience, can help them in not only saving money but in also saving their marriage. Take time to talk.
Smart Couples Finish First, by David Bach