Josh Monroe, CFP®, CIMA® | Associate Wealth Advisor
"Two double beds? You have to be kidding me. We’re here to celebrate our first anniversary!” This unfortunate true story is one that my wife and I can now laugh about. Money was tight our first year of marriage, but we still wanted a quick getaway to celebrate. I scoured the internet for deals and booked a mid-range hotel across the street from the beach that we could (barely) afford. When we arrived, we were informed that the “king bed” room I booked on the discount aggregator site was not guaranteed. Since the hotel was full, we ended up getting what was left: two double beds and an obstructed view of the ocean. You get what you pay for, right?
This year my wife and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. We have learned a lot about money and marriage over this decade and have experienced seasons of scarcity (see above) and times of plenty. Through it all we have learned how to work together as a team and are closer than ever before. Here are five money tips that will improve your marriage and make your life better:
Communication is Key
Essential to any successful relationship, open and honest communication is critical when it comes to money. This should start even before the marriage. Both my wife and I brought some debt into our marriage and it was helpful having that open dialogue so there were no surprises later. Talking about money can be awkward and uncomfortable, so try to make it light. One of my clients regularly has a “coffee and Quicken” conversation with her spouse on Sunday mornings. It is scheduled, brief, and lighthearted.
Talk about debt, expenses, and what is working well. Create an environment of transparency, not one of shame. If you only talk about money when there is a problem, this will lead to more anxiety the next time you try to talk about money. That leads us to a fun topic: goals.
Create Shared Goals
One of our favorite things to do as a couple is to daydream about our next vacation. Once we have a shared goal, we can both visualize it, plan it and create a plan to save the money for the trip. Having shared financial goals is critical so that you are working together instead of potentially working in opposite directions. If one spouse is secretly stashing money away for a boat while the other spouse is diligently trying to pay down debt, their progress will be slowed, and they may end up resenting each other. Flex that communication muscle and spend a date night talking about your financial dreams and then work on prioritizing them together.
Lean On Each Other’s Strengths
Introverts often marry extroverts and spenders often marry savers. It can either be frustrating that opposites tend to attract, or it can be leveraged for the benefit of both! If one spouse is a better saver, they can lead some of the big picture decisions about budget and setting up savings targets. However, creating space for spending and enjoying life now is important too. Make sure that you do not sacrifice your future goals but let the spouse that enjoys spending plan some fun things in the short term. You can strike a great balance and save for your tomorrows while still enjoying today.
Make Big Decisions Together
I once knew a couple that discussed every single purchase they made in advance with each other. This seemed like a good idea to them in pursuit of marital harmony, but in reality, checking in before downloading a 99-cent app on your phone is far more annoying than helpful. On the opposite end of the spectrum my grandfather once bought a brand-new car for the family without even consulting my grandmother (I think he got to sleep in the car that night).
It is up to you to define the threshold between pennies and a new car, but make sure you discuss big decisions and purchases together. Taking on new debt especially affects both spouses and for months or years to come. Have a plan for how you will make big decisions together and you will find more bliss.
United Front with Kids
Here is a bonus tip for parents: your kids watch what you do with your money. In addition to setting good examples on how you spend and save your money, make sure you send a clear and consistent message to them. Saying “I’d love to buy this new Xbox for you, but I think Dad would lose his mind” does not send a great message to your kids or strengthen your marriage. As our kids get older and they ask for more things we often default to the answer “Let Mom and Dad discuss that, and we’ll get back to you.” This prevents one of us from always getting the thrill of saying yes and painting the other parent as the spoil sport.
As you work with your spouse on improving your financial conversation and compromise skills, remember you are on the same team!
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The information provided is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment or legal opinion. Please consult a tax or financial advisor with questions about your specific situation. Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. The specific companies referenced here are being discussed for informational purposes only and should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell these securities at this time.