Money is often cited as the number one reason for divorce. So it would make sense that most couples should get on the same financial page before walking down the aisle in order to (hopefully) ensure marital bliss.
But just because we know a piece of knowledge doesn’t mean we actually take advantage of it.
Take, for example, my husband and me. When we pledged to spend the rest of our lives together, we had no idea how much debt the other person had, what our spending and saving styles were, what our credit scores were, or how much income we made jointly.
We were a married financial disaster!
Five years later, we’ve made a lot of peace with our finances and each other, but we would have saved ourselves a lot of pain and heartache if we would have had these tough conversations before we got married. Learn from my mistakes—here are five money mistakes that can hurt your marriage and how to work through them.
Not Having a Financial Plan
Are you and your partner on the same page about your financial goals? Many of the goals we have for our life and our marriage require some type of financial investment.
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Have you talked about your dreams for retirement? My husband and I know we want to travel a lot when we retire—my husband even has dreams of opening a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica. Our dreams may change as we grow older, but in order to make sure we can even make these dreams a reality, we have to financially invest now, which means forgoing other big ticket items, such as fancy cars, for a retirement payout in the future.
What about other financial goals, like buying a house, or saving for your kids’ education? It’s important to get on the same page and create a financial plan that aligns with the goals for your marriage.
Avoiding Talking About Money
A lot of couples just don’t even bother to have conversations about money. These days, it’s entirely easy to keep finances separate and continue to divide bills and just handle money individually rather than together.
If you have separate accounts, you could go months without needing to have a single conversation about money! But this is why it’s critical to make a financial plan—how do you know that you’re on the same page and are saving enough for your joint goals?
Assuming anything in a relationship can lead to disaster, especially when it comes to finances. If you’re not having regular conversations with your spouse, set a weekly “mini date” where you spend a few minutes talking about the finances for that week. Where was money spent? How much went into savings? How much are you contributing toward short-term goals (like vacations and holiday spending) and long-term goals (like a house down payment, retirement, education)?
Having Financial Secrets
When finances are kept separate, it can be entirely easy to keep financial secrets from each other. But this can only hurt the trust in your marriage. If you’re hiding purchases in your marriage, it’s because there isn’t enough trust.
While every couple deserves to have their own amount of “fun money” to spend however they please, this should be a mutually agreed upon amount. There should be no hidden credit cards or debts that are accrued.
Not Contributing Equally
Sometimes it’s not always possible to contribute equally to the finances, because chances are your spouse either makes more or less than you do. But that doesn’t mean that you both can’t contribute equally to the marriage.
The most equal way to make sure resentment doesn’t built is to ensure that you are both contributing an equal percentage of your income to the household finances. For example, if you bring in 70% of the income, then you should be contributing 70% toward household finances, while your spouse contributes 30%. That way, you’re both making the same financial sacrifices.
Creating a Saver vs. Spender Mentality
Because opposites attract, the chances of there being a saver and a spender in a marriage are relatively high. In my marriage, I am definitely the saver and my husband is the spender. In the beginning, it was one rocky road as my husband wanted to spend freely and “live in the moment,” and I wanted to have substantial savings in the bank to feel secure.
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually we found a balance that worked for us, and it has really, really helped us both. I now make sure that we set money aside for those indulgent purchases my husband loves, and my husband now admires that we often have savings to cover emergencies, but also for fun things, like vacations.
Resolving any issue in a marriage involves a lot of communication. Keep the lines of communication open in your marriage when it comes to finances so that you never see yourself using money as an excuse for why your relationship isn’t working.