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For Love and Money: 5 Steps to Help Couples Stay on the Same Page

| February 02, 2018
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Have you ever found it difficult to separate emotions from financial or investment decisions? If your answer is “yes,” you’re not alone. Many of us have particular money habits instilled in us from a young age, be it from lessons our parents taught us or financial actions we witnessed that led to good or bad results.

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having differing money habits, it can cause a rift in relationships. One study found that 63% of couples think their significant other overspends in some way, while another study revealed that money fights are the top predictor of divorce. While every couple may have occasional disagreements about money, you don’t want it to consume your relationship and cause its demise.

As an advisor who frequently serves families, I’ve worked with a number of couples on spending, budgeting, and how to find a happy medium with which both partners feel comfortable. Here are a few simple strategies that may help couples avoid financial friction.

1. Talk About It

It’s important for both partners to offer full disclosure of their finances and be open about expenses, regardless of whether you’re married or you live together, have joint accounts or separate bank accounts. You and your spouse should be aware of how you spend your money, especially when it comes to significant expenses, loans, or ongoing fees.

Studies show that around 49% of financial arguments are about unexpected expenses. By maintaining an open line of communication regarding spending habits and upcoming bills, you may be able to avoid such confrontations. I like to say when in doubt, talk it out.

2. Give Yourselves Budgets

One way to stay away from secretive behavior is to establish a budget and a few ground rules that encourage honesty but still allow for some freedom. Sit down with your partner to establish guidelines about spending. If you currently set a monthly budget, these guidelines can work within that.

Of your, say, $1,000 of mad money per month between the two of you, how much can one spouse spend without talking about it with the other? Are there are any types of expenses that are off-limits or that require buy-in from both partners? It may sound strange at first creating rules for spending, but it may help you avoid financial arguments.

3. Have a Monthly Money Meeting

Too often, one spouse acts as the Chief Financial Officer of the household, managing all bills, budgets, savings, investments, and insurance policies. However, it can be helpful for both partners to understand their spending versus their saving.

I recommend to many of my clients to sit down as a couple once a month to review credit card statements, account transactions, and other bills and check for any possible errors. Ongoing input from both partners will strengthen your relationship and create a true partnership. It also helps ensure both of you understand how your money is being spent and whether or not you’re on track toward your long-term goals.

4. Define Shared Goals and Values

Even if one spouse has more of a financial mind and interest in finance, each partner should have input into the budget, goals, and money values. Both partners need to buy into the plan so that things like overspending or miscommunication don’t derail the relationship.

For example, when only one of you knows how much money has been allocated to specific categories, if the other person goes out and overspends in that category it can lead to frustration and fighting. But if you both know how your finances stand, you can celebrate reaching goals together and also brainstorm ideas to get over obstacles. Two heads are better than one.

5. Work with an Objective Third-Party

Sometimes the best way to ease money tensions is to work with an objective third-party, whether that’s a financial advisor, a marriage counselor, or both. A financial advisor can work with you and your spouse to review your financial landscape, identify any gaps in your coverage, assist you in establishing short and long-term goals, help you stay on track, and provide professional and knowledgeable advice.

Taking the Next Step

Many couples have trouble finding a good financial balance because it’s hard. It requires good choices today, smart planning for tomorrow, and wise investing over the long term. At ClearVista Financial, we can serve as your coach to help you make good choices today, create a smart plan for tomorrow, and invest wisely over the long term.

From answering questions about your financial situation to offering education on budgeting, financial planning, and investing, we can help. Email me at mtrice@clearvistafinancial.com or call  800-491-4508 or click here to book your free introductory meeting. During this meeting, we can discuss these financial action steps, as well as any other concerns you and your partner may have.

About Mark

Mark Trice is an independent financial advisor with nearly a decade of experience in the industry. As the founder of ClearVista Financial, his mission is to help people find financial balance in their lives and to spend life well. Along with providing financial planning and retirement planning to pre-retirees and 401(k) plan participants, he is also an educator. He currently holds the designation of a Certified Financial Educator® through the Heartland Institute of Financial Education. Mark has offices in Austin, Brownwood, Temple, Houston, and Waco, Texas. Along with serving clients in Texas, he also works with individuals in California, Colorado, West Virginia and Virginia. To learn more, visit www.clearvistafinancial.com or connect with Mark on LinkedIn.

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