Marriage is a union of two people. There are steps taken on various aspects to make the marriage successful but many a times financial matters take a backseat till they become an issue. Money is considered a major reason of discord among married couples whether rich or poor.
In 2010 column, David Brooks (New York Times Columnist) wrote an article “The Sandra Bullock Trade” [I think he picked the wrong example but message is really important] :-
“Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?
Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.” Read complete article…
Money is an important aspect of marriage which has to be discussed openly as every individual has his or her opinion on how to manage, spend and save money. In a marriage, it is important to share financial goals and vision.
Here are some good money habits for a happy marriage:
1. Manage home finances like a business – This might seem like a little non-traditional. But where money matters are concerned, it is important to be professional about it. Just like in a business, the cash inflow and outflow are estimated, calculated and compared, the couple should have a statement that does exactly this. A business has a budget and tries to stick to it and overspending and underspending are explained. You should do the same at home. This will ensure both partners know what is happening in the household financial matters exactly.
2. Set Goals together – Your goal could be to settle in your hometown or village post retirement. Your spouse might have dreams of travelling the world. It is important to sit together and discuss goals and set short-term and long-term goals that are aligned to both. You should also write them down and review them periodically together.
3. Financial Planning is a must – I do not need to emphasise on the importance of a financial plan. When you get married, the financial plan must be made or revisited (if already in place) to incorporate this change in your life. The plan should cover aspects of dual income (if both spouses are working), shared financial goals, individual financial goals, will, emergency fund etc. You could hire the services of a financial planner who will help both of you to have a integrated financial plan and help in understanding each one’s opinions and concerns on finance in an impartial manner without letting emotions run high.
4. Financial Independence – It is important to share everything in a marriage but also important to have some independence in financial matters as saving and spending habits differ from person to person. One way could be to keep a percentage of the income separately and each is independent to do what he or she wants to do. (E.g. Joint and Separate bank accounts).
5. Budgeting should be done together – As I said earlier, budgeting is important .Tracking of income and expenses on various items like housing, groceries, transport, entertainment etc. should be done together so that it can be discussed openly and each one’s money habits can be analysed. Spending patterns of both can be studied and positive changes can be brought in. You can do it the old fashioned way using pen and paper, use a spreadsheet program on your computer or use online budgeting tools.
6. Set up basic rules – You can set up some basic rules for both to follow to avoid bad money habits. Here are some examples –
- Both are equally responsible for finances – Many a times, one partner may not do anything about financial management and leave the other in charge claiming him/her to be the expert. Both should be equally responsible for managing and tracking finances. If one is an expert, he or she could decide the course of action and the other could take up simpler tasks but both should be completely involved in the exercise.
- Try to match others’ lifestyle – Your friends could be buying the latest cars and gizmos. Your neighbours may take exotic vacations throughout the year. You are tempted to do the same but you should not blindly ape them. You have to keep your financial status in mind and follow the financial plan.
- If you have money problems like credit card overspending, reduction of income, aiding extended family financially which is taking a toll on your finances, you have to be open about it with your spouse. Keeping such matters to yourself will definitely affect the marriage negatively. Sharing them will get you support and you can tackle these problems together.
7. Talk Talk Talk – Honest, open communication on financial matters is extremely important. You have to discuss money matters regularly. If required, decide upon a date and time and ensure you stick to it and on that day you can set up the next date. This will help you to be aware of your financial situation and what your better half is thinking and doing on money matters. You can also discuss scenarios like –
– What if your best friend asked for a lumpsum amount for an emergency ? [Creating Emergency Fund]
Couples must learn about financial management and manage finances together. If you are committed to proper financial planning, you can definitely achieve your goals. I am naive in this subject, will love to hear your first hand experience in comment section 😉