Along with love and mutual respect, money is one of the major pillars that hold up a marriage.
Although in the early, dizzy days of romance many lovers dismiss finances as unworthy of concern, vowing “love will find a way” or “love is all we need,” they soon find that making money and sharing it carefully are vital for the long-term health of their marriage.
Too many otherwise happy marriages have failed over finances, so give money the respect it deserves if you want to keep your own marriage strong.
Marriage isn’t all about making money, don’t get me wrong. But you need to make some money to live on, and how you manage the money you both make and spend is very important.
In fact, how you manage the money you have is far more important than how much of it you have.
Show Your Spouse the Money
Transparency should be the rule when it comes to marital finances. That means you should both know where all your money comes from and what it gets spent on.
There should be no financial secrets. Once you two decide to tie the knot, you need to come clean with each other about your debts and how much money you make from your job, investments, or other sources of income.
Having a detailed conversation about money isn’t very exciting or romantic, but it is really important, especially as you start your marriage. Secrets of any kind are not a good idea in a marriage, and financial secrets can be particularly toxic.
Don’t start your marriage by concealing thousands of dollars in credit card debt from your spouse, even if it’s something you are particularly ashamed of. Take the “for better or worse” bit of traditional vows seriously.
Money – one of the biggest psychological taboos in our society – has a strong influence on people and it can induce tremendous greed, jealousy, or crippling shame.
Those emotions can warp someone’s personality and make them behave in ugly or unnatural ways. So it’s a good idea to be upfront about how you feel about money, how much you have, how much you make, and how much you owe right from the start.
An open, honest conversation with your loving spouse or partner will do a lot to relieve any anxiety you feel about money, whether you worry that you don’t make enough or that you owe too much.
One Bank Account or Two?
Decide with your spouse whether you are going to merge your finances into a single bank account or keep two separate ones. Either system works, so long as you are transparent about your money. Talk to each other and decide what works best for you.
Put everything on the table, particularly if there are little (or large) luxuries that you like to spend money on and hope to continue to spend money on after you’re married. What you end up spending your money on is not really very important, so long as both of you discuss it and agree to it.
Just as with the many mundane but necessary chores that come with marriage there are many necessary bills to pay, whether for electricity, telephone service, rent, a mortgage, car payments, credit card bills, taxes, and so on. And, just as it is important for you two to split up the chores fairly, it is important to divide up the bill paying fairly.
It isn’t so important that you divide up the cost of paying bills, but rather that each spouse feels fairly treated. That way you prevent any lingering resentments that tend to fester and hurt your marriage in the long term.
You’ll want to have periodic – monthly or quarterly – meetings with your spouse to touch base on finances. This doesn’t have to be a stressful meeting, but can just be a casual check in type chat.
Remember, you’re in this together and you’ll want to ensure you are both working towards the same goals and saving for the same things, whether they are unavoidable expenses, a dream vacation, or a new car.
Don’t Forget Talking About Dreams
Just as important as discussing how to pay your bills is talking about your dreams and how to pay for them. Don’t get trapped into just talking about money in a negative way. Every discussion about money should also include some dreaming.
Both of you should talk about dreams you have, large and small, even ones that seem unattainable. A new car or new house, new furniture, a weekend away together to somewhere romantic, a full-blown overseas holiday – all these are great things to plan and save for.
Put aside a little money towards your dreams to keep your marriage on a positive financial track. Even just a few dollars a month will add up over time, particularly if invested wisely.
Paying taxes is another difficult endeavour in many marriages. Once you are married, your taxes can become more complex, particularly if you buy a home and make other big investments. You may find that it’s no longer very easy for you to file your taxes yourself.
If you do handle them yourself, make sure, as with all other financial activities, that one spouse doesn’t feel like they always have to do it. Take turns, or bite the bullet and do it together.
If you decide it’s time to hire a professional to do your taxes, that’s fine. Work together, though, to collect all the required receipts and other necessary forms.
And share the burden of paying if you owe taxes, or of deciding how to spend any refunds you receive.
A good idea with any capital windfall is to save a third of it, spend a third on necessities, and to spend the final third on yourselves for something fun.
Finally, make sure to spend some money on yourselves, on things that aren’t just necessities. Splurge on yourselves now and then so that your marital finances don’t just become a stressful balancing of books every month.
Go out to eat at a restaurant, take in a movie, or buy something nice for yourselves each month.