Getting on the “same page” with your spouse can be challenging. No matter how long you’re married, there will inevitably come a time when you don’t wholeheartedly agree on finances. After all, financial history and values leave an indelible mark on your goals. Maybe opposites attract in the first place. But after the enamored “he or she is perfect” stage wears off, it is common to feel disillusioned … wondering what brought you together originally.
I’ll be celebrating my 10-year wedding anniversary in May. My husband Bryan and I have very few squabbles over money. The secret to our success? Read on.
1. Set Savings Goals Together
This may be obvious, but it is hard to reach joint goals if you make plans individually. Even if you feel comfortable functioning as the Chief Financial Officer of the family, ALWAYS get buy-in from your spouse on big money matters. If you deem a goal as important, he or she may consider it totally irrelevant. Simultaneously saving for numerous goals like retirement, kids’ education, vacations, tax payments, and other substantial expenses is hard. Don’t make it even more difficult by squabbling over the dollar amounts allocated to each goal.
Talk to any therapist and you probably know the most common reason relationships fall apart: communication, or lack thereof. It is easy to go on autopilot — believe me, I’m guilty too. But if you don’t take time to re-evaluate goals, you won’t have any barometer to gauge progress. Consider setting a recurring meeting with your spouse to strictly discuss finances. Mark it on the calendar — monthly, quarterly, or annually. Use your judgment on frequency. With so many family responsibilities, the temptation when you finally get time alone is to avoid financial discussions altogether. Plan separate date nights since it isn't fun to mix business and pleasure.
3. Don’t Assign Blame
It can be tempting to point the finger when your spouse makes a financial misstep. In times like these, I like to think back to the Biblical quote “whoever has not sinned [should] cast the first stone”. Acknowledge that no one is perfect (even you). We all have a fair share of regrets — financial or otherwise — and this is not the time to pass judgment.
4. Think Back to “Happier” Times
So you’ve been married a while and that initial love aura may be fading. That’s OK. Accept it and think back to the times when money wasn't as much of an issue. Any couple is bound to fall on hard times. When my husband lost his job this summer, it was incredibly trying for our marriage. Luckily, he found new employment within a few months and we had savings stashed away. It was so tempting during that difficult time to look at the current situation and come to a complete halt in our relationship. But we both persevered and had faith.
5. Join Forces
This may be unpopular, but I firmly believe in keeping all financial matters together as spouses. Since day 1 of our marriage, we had and continue to have a joint account for everything — recurring bills, entertainment, savings, etc. If something happens to me, he gets it all. If something happens to him, I get it all. It keeps things simple. When there is so much complexity in this world, why settle for anything other than simple?
Hope this was meaningful to you. As always, I appreciate your comments and suggestions. Do you have other recommendations for achieving financial bliss with your spouse? Please share them below!
Deb Meyer, CPA, CFP®