You’re married…and you lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, most couples not in a fairy tale have to deal with the very real issue of money. According to an American Express survey, 61% of married couples say financial discussions lead to arguments.
For some, money can be one of the most jarring parts of a marriage. Joint finances are as rewarding as they are challenging, and they can be a difficult hurdle for many couples to overcome. Here are some good places to start.
Living on your own, you likely had to learn financial basics: saving, credit, interest. Now married to another person who also learned financial basics on their own and especially with kids financial choices become much more complicated. You need to think more about the future. You both need to consider retirement accounts, college savings, paying down serious debt like your mortgage or student loans, and limiting credit card debt.
A financial advisor can help clear the fog, but it comes down to what you want together. And that means you need to…
Budget for Shared Goals
What do you like doing together? What do you both want? If you married there’s likely some common ground, and that should be the focus of your financial decisions. In your monthly budget – by the way, you need one – your first priority should be allocating money towards those goals. Saving for a family vacation is likely more rewarding than fancy new shoes. It’s an excellent example of how marriage makes two lives into one.
Another consideration is that one spouse likely makes more money. Often this becomes a question of pride. This becomes another opportunity to consider are we two individuals or one team? What’s more important: spending money you’ve earned, or putting it towards your family?
Learn Each Other’s Habits
For new couples, it can be difficult to learn how to not spend like you’re still single. Unhealthy habits can carry over: eating out too much, abusing Amazon Prime. Many fights are about these habits, not about the money itself.
But habits are not always bad. Some people just derive joy from different things. That’s why an all-inclusive “fun money” approach is popular: after your shared goals are budgeted, each partner gets a fixed amount of “fun money.” This money is entirely discretionary, so each partner can still indulge in their favorite things.
It’s often seen as impolite to talk about money. But in a marriage, openness is more important than decorum. Normalize frequent discussions about money with your spouse. That budget you made comes in handy for monthly discussions about how well you are tracking to your plan and what adjustments need to be made.
If you’re having trouble talking about money, a certified marriage counselor can help. Schedule an appointment at Azevedo Family Psychology today, and don’t let money get in the way of a life worth celebrating!