Marriage can be a great thing if you and your spouse can agree on all the right things. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that most couples fail to agree on: money. Money is cited as the top stressor in relationships, and the cause of 22% of divorces, according to a study by SunTrust. Communication issues are also a top reason for divorces, so if you and your spouse aren’t communicating about money, you’re putting your marriage at risk.
Ideally, you and your spouse would have discussed money before saying “I do.” But even if that’s not the case, and money issues are starting to rear their ugly heads several years into the marriage, you can still remedy the situation. Read on to find out seven mistakes you should avoid when it comes to marital finances.
1. Starting off on the wrong financial foot.
Source: Stylist UK
It’s estimated that the average wedding costs $26,645, and that cost can double or even triple in some areas across the country. Add this cost to student loans and other debt that ether spouse may be carrying, and you’re setting the marriage up for financial disaster right from the start. It doesn’t make sense to take 10 years to pay off a one-day event. There are many ways to make your wedding both memorable and affordable. You might have to cut the guest list or pare down some of the elements, such as food and favors. You can save up for a bigger celebration with your family and friends when you’ve been married for five or 10 years. By then, you’ll likely be earning more and will have more resources to fund such a party.
>> SEE MORE: Why Money is Important in Relationships
2. Not budgeting.
Marital finances can be summed up in one word: budget. Nobody likes to budget. It would be a lot simpler if we had an unlimited amount of money at our disposal and could buy whatever we wanted, but the reality is that our incomes are limited. That’s why a budget is necessary, even though only 32% of people have one in place. Add up how much the bills cost, subtract that from your combined income and see what’s left over. Decide on how much money can be spent on non-essentials such as fast food, hobbies and entertainment, and how much should be socked away for a rainy day. Keep track of all your expenditures and look for ways to save. There are online programs that ca help keep you on track.
3. Ignoring your spouse’s debt.
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Chances are, your spouse has some unpaid credit card bills or other debt from before you two got hitched. If this debt was accrued before your marriage, then you’re off the hook financially. However, once you become married, everything becomes equal and you should help your new spouse with his or her debt problems. Spouses help each other and are there for each other through the good and bad. While you may not be particularly happy about using your hard-earned money to help with your spouse’s old debt, it will help out your marriage in the long run. Once the debt is paid off, you’ll both be happier and your spouse won’t resent you for failing to chip in.
4. Keeping secrets.
This mistake is more common than you may think. A survey by Today.com and Self.com showed that 37% of men and 56% of women lied about money to their partner. This includes hiding money, making secret purchases and opening new bank accounts without the other person’s knowledge. Almost 20% of people have spent $500 or more without telling their partner, according to a poll from CreditCards.com. Ideally, you should be discussing big-ticket items with your spouse. If you’re the one with the secrets, it’s time to admit them before you ruin your marriage. That same survey found that people consider financial infidelity just as harmful as having an affair. In fact, more than 10% of marriages have led to divorce because of secret spending.
5. Not understanding how your spouse handles money.
Source: Tips of Divorce
In many marriages, there is financial strife because one person saves money, while the other spends it freely. A person’s attitude toward money is typically based on what they experienced as a child. A person whose family struggled financially growing up will be more likely to appreciate the value of a dollar and be less likely to splurge on non-essentials. On the flip side, a person who grew up in a wealthy household may be more apt to spend freely. But attitudes toward money can change as one gets older, so to get more of a feel for your spouse’s money attitude, take this fun quiz from Money Harmony. It will help liven up the mood for such a serious topic and also help you get a better feel for your significant other’s personality toward money.
6. Being overly emotional.
Money is a highly emotional topic because we work so hard for it and it seems to get spent so easily on bills and everyday essentials. It’s easy to get upset when your spouse spends the last couple dollars in the account on fast food or something totally unnecessary. But yelling and screaming doesn’t help the situation. While it’s important that you both contribute to the household income, using finances as a weapon only causes mistrust and resentment. Instead, wait until you are calm to address the situation and start a dialogue that will hopefully lead to better money management.
7. Not having common financial goals.
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What do you want to do with your money in 10, 20 or 30 years? How do you plan to spend your retirement? Ideally, you and your spouse would be on the same page. If not, then you both are going to be spending money in different directions instead of saving toward a common goal, and this can lead to frustration and resentment. Financial goals can change from year to year, so couples should get together once a year and discuss their goals with each other.
If you and your spouse want to stay together ‘til death do you part, then you’ll need to be on the same page when it comes to finances. While it’s common to disagree about certain money matters from time to time, it’s a good idea to know how to communicate with each other about them and come to a resolution that you both can agree on. By avoiding the mistakes listed here, you can enjoy a more promising financial future together.