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Marriage and Money – Starting off Strong

Marriage and Money – Starting off Strong

| July 10, 2017

As I write this blog post, I am exactly 100 days away from my wedding. Being engaged has flown by quickly and soon life will change. I am going from looking out for just myself to making decisions jointly with my soon to be husband.

I work in an industry where one of our goals is try and reduce risk in our client’s portfolio, while still participating in the markets. This is so our clients can sleep better at night and do not worry during times of market volatility. This got me thinking: what makes a marriage volatile? What are the major issues and how do you reduce the risk of letting these issues interfere with your marriage? Relationship expert John Gottman[1] says the top four issues couples struggle with are in-laws, children, intimacy and of course – money.

I am sure it’s no surprise that money is one of the leading causes of relationship problems. Money is how we get by in life; for food, shelter, and your overall physical well being. So I sit here and wonder, what can I (and everyone else) do to reduce the risks of having money become a major issue within my marriage? Here are five money tips to get your marriage off to the right start:

1. Discuss your individual financial habits with each other PRIOR to marriage. Not only is it important to discuss how much money and debt you actually have, but what your behaviors and attitudes are with money. You might be a frugal coupon cutter that sticks to your budget whereas your partner might be an impulsive spender. You may feel comfortable taking little risk when it comes to investing, while your partner could be aggressive. Understanding how you both function when it comes to money will make it easier when it comes to budgeting, saving, investing and planning your financial goals.

2. Be transparent of your current financial situation.  After all you are getting married to the person right? This is not a time to hide the fact you are still paying off your credit card from college, that you let bills go into collections or that you’ve stashed away a substantial amount of money. While knowing each other’s assets and liabilities are important, so is knowing each other’s credit score. Research done by the Federal Reserve and Brookings Institution[2] stated if you have a low credit score, you are two to three times more likely to separate than couples with high credit scores.

3. Have a plan on how you are going to manage your day to day finances.  Generally, people come into their marriage with their money held individually. Discuss if you want to blend finances into one bank account or if you want to keep them separate. Sometimes you can do a combination of the two and have a household account to pay your joint bills and a separate account for your weekly spending money. This is a way to pay joint bills together while still having some freedom with smaller personal spending here and there such as buying a coffee or a taxi ride. You can even come up with how much you each get by budgeting out the amount of spending money each week.

 We get asked this question a lot and honestly, it is a personal preference of what you feel most comfortable with. There is no right or wrong answer on how to go about this.

4. Discuss your financial goals together and come up with a plan to work towards them. Whether it’s buying a house, planning for a baby, or going on a dream vacation it is essential to make sure you are on the same page as to what your financial goals are, how to prioritize each, and what plan will be in place to pursue them. Then work on a budget together (which can be done even with finances being separated) to help determine how much you can contribute as a couple and how long it will take you to work towards each goal. After all, teamwork makes the dream works.

5. Honesty. As long as you and your partner are honest with each other about the financial situation you are in, then you can work to get through it. Don’t hide transactions from each other, even if you keep your money separate. Discuss any large purchases you would like to make as a couple instead of doing it without your partner’s knowledge. This goes the same for lending money or supporting friends or family members financially.

If as a couple you are having a hard time discussing finances prior to your marriage, I suggest doing some pre-marital counseling or having a consultation with a financial planner – or even better, a combination of the two. Working with an objective third party can be the support you need to help you get on the right track and help build a solid financial start for your marriage.  

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.