Just got married? Congratulations! As you settle into married life, don’t let your newlywed bliss prevent you from having a heart-to-heart with your partner about your finances.
Talking about how you will manage your money as a married couple is a huge gift you can give each other. Why? Because one of the leading causes of divorce is money trouble. Money trouble doesn’t necessarily equate to being in trouble financially – very often money trouble is a result of miscommunication and arguments about spending and saving.
Take some time to sit down and talk about your finances and how you envision you will manage them as a couple. Everyone brings ideas from their own pre-married life to the table that may have worked for them, but may not be effective as a married couple. By talking about your previous practices and your goals as a couple, you’ll be on a successful path towards managing your money in harmony.
We’ve put together this list of common money mistakes married couples make to help you avoid these pitfalls to ensure you two will be just as happy 30 years from now as you are today.
Mistake #1: Keep secrets about your spending
Make a commitment with your partner to always tell the truth about your spending – whether it’s the big purchases or the small ones. Lying about your spending habits will breed distrust which can be detrimental to any relationship.
Mistake #2: Designate money management to one person
It’s not uncommon for couples to specialize in certain roles within a relationship – like cooking or taking out the trash. Managing money should not be one of those roles. Having only one partner maintain total control of the money is a recipe for disaster. Make it a goal to talk regularly about your finances to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Mistake #3: Think your spouse’s debt isn’t your problem
Although you’re not financially responsible for paying off the debt your spouse accrued before you got married, it doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the money that’s owed. If your partner has a big debt – whether it’s a student loan or credit card debt – they will likely put a large amount of their income towards paying it off. This can lead to friction within a relationship since that person may not be able to contribute to the household as much as the other person. The best approach is to work together to pay off the debt.
Mistake #4: Not setting ground rules for managing money
It’s a good idea to establish some ground rules about how to manage money so both you and your spouse are on the same page about key questions like:
- How much money can one person spend without conferring with the other spouse?
- What discussion needs to take place before one person opens a credit card account or takes out a loan?
- If there are kids in the family, do they get an allowance and how is that doled out?
- What happens with bonuses or unexpected windfalls?
Go ahead and write them down so there is no confusion about what was said and agreed upon.
Mistake #5: Play tit for tat
If your spouse went out and made a large purchase for him or herself without first consulting you, it doesn’t mean you get free reign on a big purchase on your wish list. You don’t undo one money mistake by making another one. If you and your spouse both have large purchases you want to make, talk about it in your monthly budget discussion and come up with a plan.
Most marriages don’t have a money problem; they have a communication problem. Make a commitment with your spouse to work together towards shared financial goals.