Financial Intimacy: The Road to a Happier Life
This past summer I was blessed to marry the love of my life, Sarah. Sarah and I were both raised to be financially responsible, yet we have still discovered that discussions about money can still be awkward and stressful. I may be a financial advisor, but I never went into a date with a checklist of questions to go over regarding budgeting, saving for retirement, debt, etc. Even if you’ve been married for 30 years and thinking this message doesn’t apply to you, we often find that many of these principles could serve as a great reminder for couples who often drift away from their initial financial intentions. I hope you will take the time to read it and consider forwarding it on to someone else who may benefit from the message.
Regardless of whether you are planning to marry a financial advisor or a partner whose financial experience is limited to a high school finance class they slept through, it is certainly important to have a conversation about money before becoming spouses officially. Getting on the same page about money is key in setting the foundation for a successful marriage and avoiding potential disagreements down the road.
We probably don’t need to remind you that when you say “I do,” you’re committing to every part of each other—including any potential debt. Choosing a life partner should certainly be a decision made independent of any financial burden he or she may carry. However, being honest with one another about every aspect of your finances can help negate the number two cause of fights upon married couples, behind infidelity (according to research done by Dave Ramsey): money.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of making a financial adjustment in marriage is changing the thought process of all the habits you have spent years establishing. The definition of the word marriage is “a combination or mixture of two separate elements.” In that light, it is a big shift to think through all financial decisions from a “we” perspective having spent so much time only concerned about a “me” perspective.
One common pitfall is simply assuming you and your partner are on the same page about money because your personalities and ideals have meshed so far. A common mistake couples make is assuming they are on the same page about money simply because they have agreed on most other things in their relationship. Making this assumption is often the cause of eventual confusion and consternation down the road. To avoid relying on assumptions, make it a priority to discuss money tendencies. Ask each other a few questions:
- Are you a spender or a saver?
- Do you prefer safety for emergencies or current status?
- Can you accept your spouse’s debt and make a plan to pay it off?
- When creating a budget, are you willing to make sacrifices to satisfy any needs or wants your partner has?
- Would your preference be to combine all financial accounts? If not, do you trust each other enough to not hide significant purchases from one another?
Understanding that marriage will have ups and downs, coming to agreements about budgeting and how money should be handled will be key in preventing emotions from affecting spending decisions. For example, if you mutually agree to never make a purchase of $100 or more without running it by your spouse first, it sets a precedent that may make impulsive decisions less likely.
A healthy relationship - even in my relatively limited experience – is one that makes financial transparency a priority from the start. Couples who can talk and ultimately come to agreements about money almost always have a better marriage overall. In fact, lots of couples found that being on the same page about money improves all aspects of their relationship. Dave Ramsey’s belief is that “(couples) who can talk about money can talk about anything.” Money can certainly come with baggage and make us all uncomfortable at times—but working through that past and setting goals together is how you grow stronger in the now and the future.