February seems like the perfect month to discuss marriage and money. I know you have all heard it said that the number one thing couples fight about is money and finances. Check out this article by Dave Ramsey with statistics on how money issues can ruin a marriage. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of conflict and divorce and according to www.thecashlorette.com, “Nearly half of Americans (48%) who are married or living with a partner say they argue with the person over money.” According to www.marketwatch.com, “TD Ameritrade found that 41% of divorced Gen Xers and 29% of Boomers say they ended their marriage due to disagreements about money. Connecting on financial matters helps you and your spouse align your marriage goals. If you’re not working together toward the same financial goals, you could be working against each other. If one is saving money and one is over-spending, this can be a huge cause for argument. When you learn how to healthily communicate on hard topics, such as money, this can really improve your life together as a couple. Unifying your financial goals can really end your money disputes for good.

Some major financial issues that could cause marital dispute if left unaddressed.

1. Debt – this can be from student loans before marriage, or from accrued credit card debt. There are plenty of tools out there to help you get rid of your debt.  We recommend using Dave Ramsey’s snowball effect. Becoming debt free helps you reclaim freedom in your financial life. You can begin to breathe easier and to dream again for your future.

2. Dual incomes – Should you combine your incomes, or keep them separate? There is no right or wrong way, as long as there is clear communication. If couples can’t reach an agreement on how to combine their incomes, sometimes couples just split the bills and each pay for certain bills out of their own accounts. Then after they have covered the bills for the month each spouse decides how to spend the remaining money. This can lead to resentment if each partner has completely different approaches to money. If someone is making large purchases and the other is saving to reach long-term goals, such as to buy a home or save for retirement, this can lead to situations where one spouse is hiding their spending from the other. This is not healthy. You want to discuss money and spending so that you both reach a consensus and both know exactly where your money is going. We suggest having a healthy conversation about where your money will go each month. Use YNAB to create a budget together that you both agree on. You can even set up sinking funds to purchase bigger items and give each other a weekly spending limit to spend freely. Check out our blog titled, “You Can Have Whatever You Want.”

3. Financial burdens – Unexpected financial burdens such as having to take care of a loved one earlier than expected, or paying for a new car after an accident should be discussed before the issues arrive. Everyone will have unexpected expenses. If one spouse wants to ignore this fact when situations arise and just put these expenses on a credit card and incur debt, and the other spouse wants to plan ahead and save for such burdens, there is a huge disconnect and this creates tension in the relationship. Couples owe it to themselves to come up with a plan on how they will handle these costs before they arise.

4. Risk-takers vs risk-averse – Everybody is different when it comes to how they spend, save, and invest their money. This is probably going to be a touchy conversation, but one that you must have especially if one of you is more of a cheap-skate, or completely risk-averse, and the other is a gambler who wants to risk-it-all for the chance of hitting the jackpot. Some people are better at delaying gratification than others. Sometimes, one person has created bad habits that need to be addressed. This is why when it comes to financial planning and investing for your future it is great to have a mediator who can help you create a plan together. Sometimes, just having an expert to help you reach a compromise that works best for both of you can make all the difference. Financial advisors sometimes feel like life coaches and counselors, because when they help couples create healthy money habits and goals, then the couple can begin to flourish in other areas of their life, because they have reduced their level of stress and animosity toward one another. You can then begin retirement and legacy planning.

5. Loss of job or income source – We suggest to have money saved for emergencies such as this. You will want to create an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses according to Dave Ramsey. It’s kind of like creating your own insurance fund that creates peace of mind and can be used when other emergencies arise as well. Just remember to replace the funds you use when you return to work.

In the end, every couple needs just a few things to win with money together –

  1. Healthy communication
  2. A budget, plus a weekly budgeting meeting so that both of you are on the same page. (healthy habits)
  3. To be intentional about saving and investing for your future.
  4. To give or find ways to invest your money in causes that have meaning to both you and your spouse. This makes all your hard work worthwhile.
  5. Have a common goal. First, define your WHY? Why should we get out of debt or be on a budget? Some reasons are: we can be free, go on vacations, help our kids with college, retire one day, be financially independent, etc. Start with the end in mind. Once the why is defined, then goals should be agreed upon and established to reach that end. You both need to be on the same team and make traction together toward your current goal.

Every couple is different and has a different history with money, plus individualized appetites for risk and approach when it comes to finances. A financial advisor can be helpful to share the different investment options available while tailoring your financial plan to your wants and needs as well as helping you navigate decisions where you both feel comfortable and confident in your financial plan.

*This Friday February 12th, Dave Ramsey is hosting a digital date night called “Worth Investing In” @7pm. It is a money and marriage livestream. Money and relationship experts Rachel Cruze and Dr. John Delony will guide you and your spouse toward richer connection, communication, and intimacy.