In a marriage or a long-term relationship, money is one of the most common sources of arguments. It’s important to have conversations about finances, even though they may be difficult, stressful and uncomfortable.
Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Discussions About Money
Your financial security is paramount. You have to be able to keep a roof over your heads and food on the table, cover your other obligations and save for the future. Couples often come into relationships with very different attitudes about money but assume that they’re on the same page. That inevitably leads to conflict.
You and your partner may differ in terms of incomes, amounts of debt, credit scores and priorities. You both need to understand where the other is coming from so you can set goals and work as a team. If you don’t explicitly discuss those things and develop a plan you can both live with, you may wind up resenting each other.
Strategies to Handle Finances
Couples take a variety of approaches to money. Some put their earnings in a joint account that is used to pay all bills, buy groceries, etc. Other couples have a joint account that covers joint expenses, plus each person has an individual account with money to spend however they choose.
Some couples split shared bills 50-50, while others divide them proportionally based on each person’s income. Still other couples assign specific bills to each individual. For instance, one person may be responsible for the mortgage payment, while the other may cover the car loans.
Things can get complicated if one or both people have significant credit card or student loan debt. One person may want to take a joint approach to both debt and income, and may assume that they will tackle all debts as a couple. The other partner may believe that debts that existed prior to the relationship should be the sole responsibility of the person who incurred them.
You also have to figure out how to approach long-term goals, such as saving for retirement, college and a down payment on a house. If one person has saved more for retirement than the other, or if one or both partners have children from a previous relationship, those factors can complicate things.
Have Frank Conversations About Money
Finances are complicated, and there are many ways to look at the same situation. There is no strategy that is right or wrong in all cases. It depends on your particular situation and what you and your partner are comfortable with.
Open communication is critical. If you assume that you’re on the same page, but it turns out that you aren’t, you may find yourself fighting often or simmering with resentment.
Get Professional Help If Necessary
Discussions about money can be stressful. Sometimes it’s helpful to get advice from an independent third party with relevant expertise. Meeting with a financial advisor can help you set priorities and devise a strategy that will work for both of you.