Why is finance such a difficult topic of conversation? Surveys and reports consistently list money as the leading cause of stress and divorce in a marriage.
A Wells Fargo survey revealed that 44 percent of Americans found finance the most challenging topic of discussion. Time Magazine reported that 40 percent of American couples do not decide on how to handle their combined finances before marriage.
Think how dangerous it would be to form a business partnership and not have a plan for managing revenue and expenses. No profit goals or vision for growth. Financial discussions can be emotional, and your beliefs and attitudes about saving and spending are personal. Discussing these matters with other people can make you feel vulnerable and defensive. However, without an open dialog in your relationship, you may never achieve your financial goals, and you lose the opportunity to work together as a team.
There are so many benefits to working as a team to manage your family finances. Studies show that the power behind joint decision-making and talking regularly about money results in:
To get there, and reap the rewards of healthy money management in your marriage, you have to have an open channel of communication about money. You can begin to understand your spouse attitudes about money when you learn about how money was handled by his or her parents. Together you can share your goals for your life together now and in the future. Discussing your goals and priorities, means you can establish a plan for achieving them. Your power as a team is far greater than your abilities individually. Refer to the sections below for tips and guidelines to open up a channel for talking about money.
Newlyweds are still getting to know each other, and that includes their financial histories. Understanding your spouse’s history with money is key to more open and honest conversations moving forward. When you feel understood, you are more willing to share. Try starting the conversation with some questions that encourage you both to share.
Listen to your spouse’s answers. Ask questions and try to understand how the past has influenced current money habits. Conversations will be more comfortable and open if you both agree at the beginning to resist blaming or judging each other.
Getting to know more about your spouse’s attitudes about money will help with the next step: sharing your assets and credit histories. Pull your individual credit reports, bank statements and loans. Putting everything on the table is scary for many newlyweds. Afraid of being judged for excessive debt, or inadequate savings, you may resist sharing everything. But honesty is crucial at this stage. To make a plan for financial success, you have to have all the facts.
Money is a tool. When you search for deeper understanding, you learn that it is not money that you really want, but what money can get you. So asking questions about what you want to do, be and have can help you understand each other’s values:
Asking why after every one of these questions will get you closer to your values and your life goals. Take, for instance, “Where do you want to live?” You may learn your spouse wants to live on a five-acre plot with a barn. Why? Because he or she wants his or her children to have room to run and play outdoors so that they are strong and healthy. You have learned what he or she cares most about: having healthy, active children. Now you can work together on deciding where to live because you know what is most important.
It is vitally important to include the topic of earning money, as well. What are your career plans? What is your dream job? If one spouse earns significantly more than the other does, discuss how that makes each of you feel. It is empowering to support each other in your income and career goals and may help you each reach those goals faster.
Time and a place – The worst time to talk about money is right after he made a big purchase and you are aggravated by it. Choose a place that is quiet and calm. Pick a time when no financial crises are happening. Try to talk about money regularly. Review your spending, your incomes, your investments.
Listen, without judgment – If girl’s night out is important to her, find a way to make it work, at least sometimes. Conversations about money, especially early on in your relationship, can be challenging and emotional. Let your spouse know that money issues or disagreements will not affect your feelings of love and support.
Agree to disagree – Too often we struggle to get buy-in and make the other person believe what we believe. This is not realistic. You can still disagree on an issue but come to a decision together. One of you will have to compromise more than the other, but hopefully, you work together to make the best choice for your family.
Focus on the positives – He is a spender, and she is a saver. Her strengths are patience and willpower. However, he knows how to shop for bargains and make sure the bills are paid on time. Your financial powers are stronger together than separately.
Avoid Dishonesty – Do not hide things. Lying or hiding money in a marriage is akin to embezzling in business. Maybe you made a mistake. Mistakes happen, how you handle them determines the outcome of your finances and your marriage.
Plan something positive afterward – Because financial conversations can be so emotional and heated, it is helpful to move forward later, with an activity that brings you closer together again. Share a quiet dinner at home or take a walk and hold hands.
It is understandable that money conversations are scary, but they do not have to be. Establishing a healthy approach to handling money in your relationship empowers each of you to achieve higher levels of financial success than you could individually.