So, here’s a not-so-fun statistic to brighten your day: finances are the biggest cause of fights, tension & ultimately divorce in relationships.
But, you already knew that. Finances are like a drunk uncle at a wedding. Everyone’s aware of it, it makes every situation slightly uncomfortable, but nobody wants to talk about it.
The strange thing is, marriage can be one of the most financially lucrative decisions you can make. There’s real monetary power in those words “I do” – to the tune of married couples being significantly wealthier than their single counterparts across literally every single age group and demographic.
Marriage alone has been found to contribute close to a whopping 5 percent annual increase in net worth.
So how do you start using these powers for good rather than strife? It starts with a conversation.
Set expectations early
I know, I know, it sounds wrong – can you really imagine Belle and Beast taking a break from hours of ballroom dancing to talk about their risk tolerance and philosophy around ETFs? Cinderella asking for the prince’s credit score before jumping out of a castle? Simba doing a background check on Nala’s marsupial loan sharks?
Well, that’s why you don’t take dating advice from a Disney movie, ya dolt.
Financial compatibility is a thing, and it’s a thing that many couples ignore until it’s too late. Your philosophy around earning and money is a central element of your life, and if it doesn’t match with your partners, it’ll cause a lot of endless, unnecessary headache in the future.
Ideally, you’re having this conversation well in advance of dotting the Is and ringing the fingers, but if you haven’t it should at least be a pre-honeymoon conversation (before your Caribbean vacation turns into mudslinging about the financial merits of smuggling hotel towels).
Sit down together and hash everything out. What’s your philosophy around money? How much do you earn, and how much do you want to earn? What’s your policy on saving and investing? What major purchases do you plan on making in the future, and how much do you plan to spend? What percentage of expenses do you believe should be shared, and why? How much transparency are you comfortable with?
It’s going to hurt, there may even be some namecalling, but it’s necessary – get all the dirt on the table, so you can come up with a practical plan and compromise to move forward. Untold financial expectations lead to resentment in the future.
It’s a family decision, not a business meeting
If you’re thinking about your finances like a shareholder at a board meeting hoarding equity, you’re doing it wrong. Spousal finances aren’t a swordfight to optimize your disposable income and freedom, it’s a collaborative effort to make sure the finances of the group are helping everyone.
Be empathetic to one another. Different people have different financial values, and that’s okay. Be humble and go into the conversations seeking a win-win solution, not trying to simply get your way.
And if your spouse is really willing to die on the stake of blowing $1k on a mariachi band for the wedding because you met eating Mexican food, maybe just find a way to pay for it in installments and invest in some great earplugs.
It’s a game of compromise – be fair with one another, invest in things for the mutual good, but allow each other to splurge and overspend occasionally. This isn’t a board meeting, and you’re only human.
Set, and re-set goals
Talking about it once and never broaching the topic again is a recipe for disaster. Set goals – difficult goals, long term goals. College funds, emergency funds, retirement funds. What are your career goals? How do they align? How much money do you want to be making collectively in X amount of years?
If you set these in stone, two things happen: 1) the discussion gets much less emotional and much more pragmatic, and 2) it forces you to continuously revisit them.
It’s important to revisit them regularly, not when some life event (i.e a lay-off) forces you to, which is the mistake most couples make. Over time your goals should change as well, as you evolve and mature as a couple – reflect those.
Financial planning in a relationship is arguably more important than financial planning solo.
Go have some fun, for the love of god
Alright, you’ve had the messy talk, you’ve argued about why buying horse is a monstrously stupid idea and talked them off it, and you’re all a bit tired of it all. Talking about finances is the yucky, necessary part of the relationship – and god knows, there isn’t a lot of romance in it.
So once you’ve had your parlay, go outside and do something romantic. Go on a nice date, cash in one of your overspending cheat days on a show, dance the night away. The finances are great, and give you a structure and foundation for your relationship – now take that foundation and go have a freaking relationship.
Finances are a sore spot for most relationships, but the strongest ones will always have one thing in common: money isn’t a problem. Even if you come from completely different worlds, earn completely different amounts, and spend on completely different things, a proper planning schedule & heaping doses of empathy will help you make it work.
Once you get your ducks in a row, your marriage becomes a well-oiled financial machine, paying out dividends for decades to come. Family will always be your bedrock – it’s time to start investing in it.