Right up there with religion, how much money you have or how much money you make is an uncomfortable conversation for most. Once the topic comes up, most people will dodge it and try to change the subject. It’s almost taboo.
Since money is a quantified value, we often tie our self-worth to the measuring stick that is our bank account. If your bank account is full, you probably feel pretty good about yourself. If it’s looking scarce, you probably have some stress on your shoulders. Our collective culture tells us that the amount of zeroes in that bank account (before the decimal point) gives us a rank amongst our peers. This is why no one wants to talk about it. We don’t want to know where our closest friends rank, especially if they’re well above us.
With money being one of the most uncomfortable things to talk about in our day to day lives, you could begin to see why it can be an issue within a romantic relationship. A marriage or courtship depends on open communication and honesty to sustain itself. We all subconsciously carry this taboo understanding of money into those relationships as we go from dating to engagement to marriage. We don’t talk about it, and then ignore any expensive issues as problems creep up.
Financial infidelity or dishonesty could be intentional, but it also could stem from years of missed conversations that could have saved the problem in the first place. No matter the cause, the effects are numerous:
- Credit Card Debt
- Financial Mistrust
- House Foreclosure
It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s best to see it for what it is and begin to make plans to better you and your spouse’s financial futures.
Seek out professionals
Reach out to two types of professionals when your marriage has been rocked with some financial troubles or dishonesty: a financial planner and a marriage counselor. The financial planner will help you figure out what to do about the monetary hole that you are now in. The counselor will help you uncover the reason why you’ve found yourself in this hole in the first place.
The reason you should find these people to help you is because if you try to rely on the two people that got you into this mess–you and your spouse–to get you out of it, you probably won’t find much success. You need to let the counselor be an objective point of view to the issue at hand. With their help, you both can begin to see the reason why one of you has been charging up a massive balance on the credit card. There is often plenty of emotion tied to spending in irresponsible fashion; allow a third party therapist or counselor navigate through those emotions and help you mend what’s broken.
Once you’ve gotten a better understanding of the emotions involved with the financial problems that you or your spouse have produced, your financial planner can help you build back your dwindling bank account. Their advice about your expenses will be worth every penny since they don’t have their emotions and feelings tied up in what to do best for your marriage’s future.
Make money decisions together
Far too often, married couples leave the financial responsibilities up to only one person. This can do one of two things, both of them potentially destructive to your wealth and the health of the marriage:
The person in charge of finances takes advantage of the power bestowed upon them, allowing them to do what they feel is best with your family’s money. Knowing that their partner will never check on the progress of the budget and expenses, a person with all the power could subtly shift how money is spent within the family. It could be small things like allocating more money for golf outings or happy hours. This could lead to bigger purchases or expenditures, though, leaving the joint bank account vulnerable to inappropriate overspending.
The person left at the helm of the income and expenses for the family is well intentioned, but not well educated. Budgeting and investing seem like straightforward processes, but they can get complicated the more that you explore their depth. This person is far less malicious in their intent to drown their family in debt, but their lack of understanding of incoming and outgoing money can cost the family a good amount of money.
To avoid either of these two things from happening, choose to budget your finances together. Neither of you may be experts in money and how to handle it, but two heads are always better than one. At the very least, when unexpected expenses come up or someone calls about a debt to collect, there will be no secrets. This allows for the two of you to take a healthier approach to the circumstance. If only one person were dealing with your marriage’s money, they may try to do what’s in their best interest. Or, they may just not know how to handle it and cover up their deficiency-induced error.
Have personal spending money
Some married couples make the mistake of pooling all of their money together and spending from whatever is in there. The problem with this approach is that each individual within a marriage has personal needs that are specific to them. Maybe your husband wants to golf once a week. Maybe your wife wants to set money aside for “girls night out” each month. If you’re trying to spend your money from that common pool of joint income, there may be some disagreement on how it should be spent.
By having your own personal spending account, you can buy whatever you want and your spouse can’t give you grief for it. This will lead to less stress about money, specifically about those expenses that aren’t for mutual benefit.
Keep the joint bank account and dump most of your money into it; most of the things you buy will have mutual benefit so the joint bank account will be there to cover these expenses. Just set aside $100 a month or so into each of your personal bank accounts so that you can spend how you want to on the things that only matter to you.
Money isn’t a fun subject to talk about for most people. Within your lifelong marriage, it’s not a topic that should just get swept under the rug. Address the issue sooner than later to avoid intentional and unintentional monetary mistakes that will mess with your financial futures.