One of the number one causes of divorce in the United States is Finances. If you ask almost any couple they will tell you at one time or another they have disagreed on some financial issue. In order for couples to be on the same sheet of music and ensure financial harmony there are a few rules they should follow.
- Discuss financial goals-Although you are married as individuals there are also goals that you would like to accomplish. All of these goals should be discussed and written down so that both parties are aware of the other person’s desires. As individuals and a couple; you should have short term, medium term, and long term financial goals. They should be agreed upon and thoroughly planned for. This will ensure that as a family all goals are met.
- Live if possible on one salary-Many couples make decisions based on a dual income mentality. They believe that life should be lived right down to the last penny. The only problem with this thought process is that things happen. What if either spouse loses their job or gets sick, does the financial picture change? Why of course it does. Many couples have found out that as soon as one income is lost they are immediately unable to handle their debts and soon find themselves in a financial nightmare. If they had only lived off of one salary and saved the other salary for emergencies, they would have been able to survive most unfortunate financial events.
- Save for Emergencies-In my previous article on how to develop a spending plan, I talked about saving for emergencies based on 6 to 9 months of monthly living expenses. By planning ahead for difficult times you take away those financial surprises that we all face. Do this with automatic savings, as it is easier to save if the savings is done transparently. Both parties should contribute to this account as well as having a small account set aside individually. This smaller account gives each person the autonomy to buy the little things that they want and those special surprises that their spouse loves to receive.
- Never opt out of financial responsibility-No single person in a marriage should bear all of the financial responsibility. Depending upon the type of expenditures that a couple may have; one person could find managing them to be overwhelming. Even if one member of the couple is strong in finance there should still be a monthly discussion on what bills were paid, how much is in savings as well as a bank statement review. It’s sad to see times when couples go through financial crisis because they had no idea that their spouse was not paying the bills. How would you feel if you got a foreclosure notice on your home because no payments had been made for 6 months yet the money was available? Bad right, but whose responsibility is it? The responsibility belongs to both spouses. So step up and do your part.
- Joint accounts should be used for bill paying and savings goals-There should be a predetermined amount placed in this account from both spouses based on income. This amount should be based on a percentage that is decided upon to accomplish both bill payment and savings goals. Couples should always discuss how money is used in the joint accounts. Your personal accounts should be used for your individual wants.
- Don’t comingle credit card accounts, car notes, etc-Any debt brought into the relationship should remain separate. A part of maintaining some independence in the relationship is that each person should attempt to maintain good credit. That way if one spouse has a financial snafu the other spouse’s credit will still be intact, thereby not totally crippling the finances or ability to utilize credit for the family. Remember, when you are added to any account your credit becomes a part of the other spouse’s credit and vice versa.
- Any large purchases should be discussed-Before any major purchases are made there should be a discussion as to the need of the purchase and its impact on the family’s financial picture. Both parties should agree on the purchase prior to the transaction and the spending plan should be reviewed. This review is done to ensure that the spending plan can accommodate any new changes.
By following the above points a couple can significantly reduce the amount of financial related disagreements. Happily ever after means in love and money.