One of the biggest factors that lead to divorce is related to financial problems. I can name several marriages in my own intermediate family that have ended in divorce due to financial issues myself. When it comes to marriage, financial transparency is crucial.
They say that fights related to finances are the best predictor of divorce; marriages where couples disagree about finances at least once per week are over 30% more likely to end in divorce. When you make that vow to spend the rest of your life with that special someone, it transcends emotional love & mutual interests: when the novelty of being newlyweds wears off & reality sets in, you realize that finances are included in that commitment.
The first step you need to take in order to prevent becoming a statistic is to bare your financial history, as well as to define the role that finances will play in your relationship. It is essential to make the decision of how the finances will be handled in the relationship and what is needed from both sides to maintain a quality of life that is acceptable for both people.
The main factors of finance in your marriage life include: security, health, your domicile, &/or children. Other topics pertaining to finances include but are not limited to travel, hobbies, furnishings, & household domesticity such as groceries, & etc.
Here is the first step to take in your financial transparency with your partner:
The Honest Discussion
The first step in any relationship is to have the honest discussion of where you stand present day, as well as to profess any past debts and your previous spending habits. Don’t hide debts, or bad credit. This will eventually creep up on you anyway, so laying it all out on the table from the beginning is your best bet.
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The discussion about your spending history is essential, as it helps to understand where you’ve come from and to plan for the future. When and how you’ve paid previous bills, whether they were electronic or in person, are also conversation points. Discuss the comforts you can & can’t live without.
- Share Your Credit: As a married couple, it’s no longer just me, but us. You need to know where you both fall on the credit scale. This helps to pave the way for future purchases, for loans, for setting boundaries, and for setting goals. Sharing credit scores will give both of you a better idea of how much you will need to save, as well as how to handle purchases.
- Identify your debts: Newly married couples need to examine not only how much their debts are but where they are coming from. Pinpointing the source of the debts offers a good insight into spending habits. There is a difference between paying off student loans and going on a shopping spree.
Bad credit? Don’t be ashamed. Bad credit doesn’t transfer onto your spouse, and there are different ways to build on your credit to improve it. The effects of bad credit are indirect; it only becomes an issue when taking out a joint loan.
On the contrary, debt that has accrued before marriage does transfer to your spouse, so having the open discussion of this beforehand won’t lead to any surprises down the road.
In the film Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig’s character, Annie, says in her vows: “you can have everything: my student loan debts…” Although this is probably a discussion that you should’ve had prior to your vows to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Bank Accounts and Budgets
The next step in your financial discussion as a couple should involve bank accounts. As a married couple, you have the option of keeping separate bank accounts or sharing assets with one joint account. Because this decision is a personal one, do your due diligence & figure out which option is right for both of you. There are, of course, pros and cons to both, so weigh them out and see what works.
Regardless of whether you opt for a separate or a joint account, one unquestionable obligation you share is budgeting. Based on priorities, both sides will need to come to an agreement on how money will be saved. In the same way, both sides will need to determine how much will be spent and on what. Implement a system for who will pay for what and how and when it will be done.
For example, couples may opt to divvy up the bills based on their income, couples can pay electronically, via mail, or in person, and couples may elect to enroll for direct deposit on a certain day, the first of the month, and etc. Everybody has differing methods on how to tackle bills- as they come or waiting until they’re due- and figuring out steps to make it work for both people is an important part of working together as a team.
The Game Plan
Following Through on a Game Plan: You’ve had the discussion: you’ve shared your credit and debts and figured out each person’s role in the financial department. The next step is to implement a game plan. Create goals for saving up and/or for getting out of debt. Decide how and when the debts will be paid off. Constructing a plan is the easy part- the follow-through is what requires work and patience, as well commitment.
Future Financial Ventures: As two and not one, every action one of the two takes now affects two. Keep the lines of communication open when it comes to making any big financial decisions. How many times have you heard the all too familiar fight breaking out between couples from the amount that may have been spent shopping on credit cards, or from that new convertible purchased out of a mid-life crisis moment without conferring the other? Even if one makes more than the other, the respectful thing to do is to at least make it seem like you are attempting to deliberate with the other. After all, you’re not married to just yourself.
Here’s the bottom line: Marriage CAN be a love story with your fairy tale happy ending, but NOT when it comes to being deceptive about your finances. First, being honest about your finances, as well as making those decisions about how things will be handled going forward can save you from a lot of future disagreements.
Going along with this, creating and implementing a plan will also help prevent any issues & even bring you closer as you work together as a team to reach your end financial goals. Don’t become a statistic, & begin your journey as a team by having that discussion with your partner today.