How Couples Can Avoid Financial Disaster

Strategies for discussing money with your partner

wedding rings sitting atop dollar bills

Talking to your spouse about money may not be at the top of your to-do list, but considering that financial challenges are one of the major causes of break-ups, it’s important for your marriage.

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Giving financial talks the ‘cold shoulder’ does no one any favors and may lead to fights, secrets, busted budgets and ravaged savings accounts.

Here are five pointers to help couples avoid financial pitfalls while following their heart:

Make a Money Date. Talking about money is serious business for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Together you and your spouse can set ┬átime for discussing financial issues, such as the budget, savings, and retirement. Give the discussion your full attention. If possible, do it outside the home, such as setting up a date at a local cafe with free WiFi. Bring your laptop, spreadsheet, expenses document and any other tools you’ll need to focus on your financial situation and future. Set aside time on an on-going basis to ensure that both of you are meeting and moving towards your goals. Discuss who should have control over the money, and if you want a joint or single bank account. Discuss how wealthy you hope to be and what you would sacrifice to get there. List your retirement dreams.

Write it down. For some individuals, it’s easier to write down their thoughts and figures rather than navigate what may be an emotionally fraught conversation. This gives insight into each person’s “money-mindset.” Use a spreadsheet or expense document with bullet-ed lists, or whatever makes you comfortable when taking stock of your financial landscape. This includes who pays which recurring and major bills, as well as long and short-term saving goals. Often, seeing items in black and white is potentially less emotionally fraught than a conversation in which someone feels attacked or blamed.

Ask Questions. During your next money date, be prepared to ask and answer pertinent questions about short and long-term goals? How can you stick closer to your joint budget? Do you need a credit card for emergencies or to establish credit? Are you happy renting, or does he or she want to purchase a house one day? What does your spouse want to do during retirement? Are you going to pay for your children’s college education? Remember, nobody is right or wrong here, but you both need to be honest.

Talk Through Mistakes. If your spouse blows their portion of the budget, try not to assign blame and hold a grudge. Instead, find solutions to prevent it from happening again. For example, did your spouse overspend because car repairs were costlier than expected? Add more money to the “repairs fund” to prevent future problems. Use a budgeting worksheet or a financial tool to help you stick to your budget. Arguing with your partner without understanding what went wrong can lead to disaster and won’t solve the problem in the future.

Consider Yourselves Equals. Who makes what, is irrelevant. Respect each other as equal partners with an equal say in money management and financial goals.

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