One of the challenges that my wife and I faced when we got married was how money would be handled, who would manage it (or be the key “money manager”) and how/when we would talk about it. It wasn't easy. Both of us brought our own philosophies and emotions into the marriage regarding financial matters and now needed to consider another person amongst all of that.
I had a history that included going deep into debt through circumstances and poor choices – then digging myself out, and then my wife had her own financial past.
She says that one of the hardest things for her was to give up some of the control that she had when she was single, managing her own money. And, that's probably a huge issue for a lot of married couples. One person is likely going to be the money manager – while the other will have to relinquish some of that “control”.
Of course, this isn't always the case. Many couples will opt for separate banking accounts and then share some of the expenses. We have never opted for this route in our married life – but there were times where one of us would have probably preferred it!
According to divorce attorney, John Thyden, financial matters are the cause for 90% of his divorce case loads. “But it isn’t necessarily the amount of money a couple has that tends to trip them up. It’s the differences in their spending habits and especially their lack of communication.”
I want to share a few things that my wife and I have tried to do as we continue to learn what it takes to juggle finances and life – together. I hope they help – especially if you are struggling with sharing finances and looking for some hope.
- First, deal with your emotional stuff. I'm no psychologist – but I have learned the more that I get in tune with myself and deal with my own garbage, the better husband I will make. When we got married – I knew I would need to let go of some of my need to control every aspect of finances and what my wife might spend. It wasn't easy because I didn't want to fall back into deep-indebtedness. The realization that this money we've been given is not our own – that it is foremost – the Lords – has helped to loosen the reigns.
- Pick someone to be the manager. Even if you are planning to have separate accounts – I think there is someone who should still be designated the “money manager”. Of course, you can still come to decisions together – but sometimes there needs to be a point person. For us – that's me. We have joint accounts and it has worked out well. I probably enjoy managing money more than my wife – so it's a good fit.
- Schedule a time to discuss finances. One of the things I'd do early on in our marriage is to bring out the budget and just start talking to my wife about our finances. Well, this usually didn't go over too well. I was always at a loss as to why she was so closed off to these impromptu talks. I mean, who wouldn't want to talk about money- whenever and wherever?! I soon learned that my wife appreciated setting up an appointment to discuss these things. This one thing – however small it seems – did a lot for us.
- Plan ahead. Since I'm the money manager – I try and plan ahead for our occasional meetings. I'll bring a copy of the budget and a few talking points. I try and not take a dictatorial stance to things – but just lay out the prior month's expenses vs. income and where I project we'll be in the coming month, plus any adjustments I think we need to make. I also want my wife to know I'm open to suggestions or concerns she may have. Even though I'm more exposed to the day-to-day finances – I never want my wife to think she's not involved in decisions or that I'm not open to input.
- Set goals. One of the big things I think can help a lot of couples when it comes to finances is to set up goals. When you're in it together – going for the same prize – you're more apt to stick-it-out and support one another. Though I was out of debt (besides my house) when we were married – my wife brought some debt into the marriage and we have since incurred some more through various circumstances. This is now our debt and both of us are doing our best to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Some other financial goals could be: how much money will you give each month, retirement, or just trying to meet weekly or monthly to discuss finances.
Being on the same page when it comes to money will do your marriage good. Neglecting to talk about money – however hard it may be or difficult – won't make things better. It's just sweeping the dirt under the rug. Sooner or later – that rug is going to become a very large bump on the floor. ;)
How are you and your spouse managing your finances together? Any tips to share that has helped your marriage?