Talking Money with your (future) wife

By Mike

couple

As I had written a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine is getting married in early 2010. Being a financial planner, I always find it interesting to see how couples deal with money. It is often overlooked but it shouldn’t be. Studies have shown that financial corners and disputes rank at the top of the reasons for separation/divorce. It’s a lot more complex than most people think and it’s so easy to overlook when you are in love and visualizing the wedding, your honeymoon and all the other good stuff that is to come.

There are an infinite number of ways that family finances can be managed but the two keys are like every other aspect of a marriage; communication and being willing to compromise. This subject will be discussed over time but I consider it even more important to discuss before getting married.

Here are the main questions I think should be discussed. Let me know if you think of any others?

-Should we combine our financial assets/debts?

This is not an easy question. I think it’s a question that should be asked and reflected on. Obviously, as we grow in a relationship, finances tend to merge because future expenses are often for the family. As well, it becomes very time consuming to split every expense and of course you can be much more efficient by combining finances together. I think that as long as both agree on how money should be spent and saved, this is the easiest way to deal with personal finances. Mathematically, you will always be better off on the same financial team as your spouse.

-What kind of lifestyle do you aspire to?

This is a major question. If a husband is hoping to have a boat, a second house and lots of travelling, chances are that the lifestyle he is looking for could be different from that of his wife, especially if her desires are for family, leisure and fitness activities. Chances are that if they simply avoid discussing this, the discussion will come up over and over. My example is perhaps a bit extreme but the reality is that no one expects or hopes for the same life. Ok, perhaps everyone wishes they did not have to work much without having any financial worries. But the reality for almost everyone is different. What kind of house, retirement, etc. There is usually a compromise to be reached that will make it a lot easier to deal with everyday budget and spending decisions.

-Who will be responsible for financial “chores” (paying bills, checking statements, etc?

I don’t think it’s ever a good idea for one person to do everything and be the sole person looking after these matters. However, this is what happens in my case since I am a financial planner and my wife just hates finance as much as I enjoy it!

Personal finance is a subject where both parties need to get involved. That being said, there is usually one person who has more interest in taking care of everything and a compromise can generally be reached for that person to follow a budget, investments, reports, etc. But at the same time, I think it’s important for both parties to get information so this information be discussed. One of the reasons of course is that if one of the members gets very sick or has an accident, the other should be able to still function.

Even though I take care of all financial aspects at home, we still discuss how we manage our money in terms of expenses (I give full disclosure on debt management and investment ;-) ).
-What are your thoughts on charity?

As you are now a couple and have partially or fully merged assets, charity becomes something that you should agree on since it is no longer one member giving but rather both. There are many ways to do this and one of them is to have each person decide to which charity they want to donate (splitting the money in two), or deciding on causes that are important to both parties. But when such subjects are discussed, it makes it a lot easier for both parties to know where they stand.
-What is your opinion about debt?

The reality is that almost everyone must use debt at some point, either to buy a house, a car, household repairs, help a parent, etc. It is important to clarify how debt should be used, to what extent and for what reasons. Using debt in itself is not a bad thing but there is obviously some level of risk involved and for that reason, it is critical for the couple to both be comfortable with their level of debt.

These are some of the questions and I’m certain there are many more that you have discussed with your spouse. I think the main point is that family finances need to be discussed in order to avoid frustration, conflict and misunderstanding.

How do you deal with finances with your spouse?

Author: Mike

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14 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Talking Money with your (future) wife”

  1. Evan Says:

    The biggest thing My Wife and I did was come up with a plan – a plan that was literally drawn out on power point:

    http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/the-wife-and-i-finally-implement-a-plan/

  2. Catarina Says:

    Interesting post!! My fiance and I recently talked to merge our accounts. We recently create a joint account and a joint credit card. I totally understand that the income and the expenses are combined. What I find challenging is the transition mode in order to merge spending habits, financial priorities, reimbursement habits, how to split the financial chore, etc. Yes it takes communication and comprise. But it takes time also :)

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Frankly, I am frustrated by my husband’s spending. My husband won’t stop spending money. I talk to him about it all the time. How do I get him to stop spending our life away. I love him but sometimes I am questionning myself if I did the right thing. I told him time and again that we needed to save and put money aside. What to do?

  4. James Says:

    How do you think can help us make financial decisions consistent with God’s will?

    Thank you.

  5. Tony Says:

    @anonymous

    I would suggest that you get a third party involved. A counselor, pastor, etc. Discussing what motivates him to spend money would be a good place to start and it may not be a good idea for you to ask those questions, especially if this is an already sensitive subject. It seems to me that people spend money for a variety of reasons and without addressing those issues, spending will not stop. There are probably some needs that need to be addressed. Maybe he feels like he has to buy toys to keep up with his friends or that he plays three rounds of gold every week to hang out with his buddies. Us guys use activities to foster companionship and toys to measure our worth and also to make us happy. All this to say that I’m 99 percent positive that money is not the issue here, but that there is a deeper need that money helps to fulfill.

  6. Tony Says:

    @James

    Do you mean: How do you think THIS can help us make financial decisions consistent with God’s will?

  7. James Says:

    Tony, thanks for the correction. Maybe it was not clear. Yes, how can you help us, my wife and I, to understand how to make financial decisions the way God wants us to? I rely with Stew’s saying: ‘Don’t just spend money, spend time with family’. But sometimes, I feel that our society is becoming more and more materialistic and individualistic. We are focusing on ‘ME, MYSELF and I’, on consumption, results and acquiring material things, at the expense of our catholic values…

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks Tony. I just feel exhausted with all of this. I am really trying to be the best wife I can and to be strong. I think it’s hard to involve a third party. I think he’s in denial. He is refusing help or won’t even consider that we have a problem…

  9. Credit Card Chaser Says:

    Setting financial goals is a big part of getting on the same page with a spouse I think. Setting goals allows both people to have a shared purpose and something to shoot for.

  10. Financial Samurai Says:

    I gotta be honest here, every time I talk to the wife, I ask her “Honey, when are you going to make a million bucks so I can retire early?” :)

  11. Mike Says:

    @Financial Samurai
    Still asking, huh? hehehe ;-)

  12. Tony Says:

    @Anonymous

    I don’t know you or your husband, but if you say third party help is out the window and that he refuses to acknowledge then my idea above is out the window. Have you tried something like allowances for each of you? This may not be a possibility due to financial constraints, and even though it sounds like something you’d do with your kids, it may work well and would give him some freedom and also reduce stress for both of you. Obviously I don’t know how severe the problem is, but this could be a solution. Or, using my example above, if the man loves golf, work that into your budget. He could overrun it yeah, but if he sees that your trying to accommodate his needs, hopefully he’ll try to start accommodating yours(saving, etc.).

    Sorry if my response is not what you’re looking for or if it seems like something you’ve read on 20 other PF blogs, but someone trained in resolving situations such as this could provide a better answer. I’m just a guy that wants folks to have good marriages and I know keeping the books balanced helps reach and maintain that goal.

    glbl guy, I know I’m new around here and thanks for tolerating my replies.

  13. Jackie Says:

    I think those are excellent questions to ask when you’re in a relationship, but I think that they should be asked a whole lot sooner than the “talking about marriage” point. Money is such a huge issue, but people can be tempted to overlook it and figure they’ll just work through it, when in reality it might be better to get some of the important stuff out of the way reasonably early on, before being blinded by love.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I really appreciate all your comments. I will definitely pause and reflect on all of this. Deep habits have gone on for a long time… I don’t think it’s too late to work things out yet.

    I definitely rely on this post that it is important to discuss before getting married. Thank you again.

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