The best thing Kayla and I ever did for our marriage (and money) was to combine our finances after marriage. We got married at a young age, I joined the Air Force and we moved to Wichita Kansas.
That decision kicked off a series of transitions and financial challenges over the next 10 years. If we didn’t combine our incomes, savings, and goals, I’m confident our marriage would have suffered.
You and your spouse are on the same team. It’s time to stop these financial problems from keeping your marriage from growing.
Let’s take a look at common money problems in marriages and how to work through them.
Money Problems in Marriage
Money can either be a blessing to a marriage or a curse. If spouses don’t learn to communicate financially your marriage is likely to suffer.
In fact, some studies suggest that financial problems are the number one cause of divorce.
Money Marriage Checklist
I want to inform you of this free resource I made just for you and your spouse. If you’re married, then this is a tool for you. It’s a money communication checklist for your marriage.
There are two parts:
The Money Marriage Checklist
The FIRE (financial independence retire early) Checklist
Common Money Marriage Problems and Solutions
Poor Financial Communication
Communication is everything. Set up periodic meeting dates with your spouse. It’s simply a time to discuss your current financial state and where you're headed in the future.
It’s a time to brainstorm financial solutions and set goals for your financial future. My wife and I enjoy doing this with our budget app open and a glass of red wine. It reduces the stress and anxiety levels and really helps us talk it out.
Typically, one person in the marriage will earn a higher salary than the other. If one of you is a stay at home spouse, then you may be financially dependent on the other.
There’s no room for salary jealousy in a marriage. It’s not my money, your money. It’s our money. There should be no comparison in how hard the other works and how much they do or don’t make.
You should be encouraging and supporting, not judging.
Different Money Beliefs
As adults, our belief systems are largely a result of our upbringing. I’m not talking about religious beliefs, I’m talking about money beliefs. We watched our parents handle money either responsibly, irresponsibly or a mix of both.
As we age into adulthood we are able to clearly see their actions. Many times this acts as a pendulum, swinging from extreme to extreme. If the parents were terrible with money, many times the children will either follow in their footsteps or be extremely conscientious with their money.
All this is to say that your spouse has a different set of money beliefs mostly based on their upbringing. A little grace goes a long way, especially if you’re the one interested in financial independence.
You need to understand that may not be their primary interest as well. They’re likely not going to obsess over it as we do. Being open and communicating can improve this.
Lack of Savings
Any time Kayla and I start feeling stressed about money is when our savings are low. We have an emergency savings fund that we like to keep around $10,000. The rest of our money goes into tax-advantaged retirement accounts and any upcoming projects (home improvement, vehicle maintenance, etc…)
When our savings take a hit, we start to grumble about finances. It’s like clockwork. Once our savings are built back up, our confidence returns and our stress is reduced. This is the number one thing we need to continue to work on. It’s not that we don’t have money, but sometimes I get a little crazy, put too much money to work and leave us a little drier than I should.
Having an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months of your bare-bones expenses should help reduce stress and anxiety in your marriage. The trick is not touching that money when you have it. For us, $10,000 is our new zero. When we have $12k in our account, we only view that as $2k and an emergency fund.
Financial Infidelity (Secret Money)
Secret money or money the spouse doesn’t know about. According to CreditCards.com, “4.4 million men and around 2.8 million women have either a bank account or credit card that they keep secret from a partner.”
This isn’t simply $20 stashed in the visor of your car for a rainy day this is financial infidelity and it’s a slippery slope.
I would be very unhappy with Kayla if I found out she had a store credit card, let alone a store credit card I didn’t know about. Having secret money is very dishonest and takes away from the combined goals we have for our family.
We just don’t do it to each other. If she wants or needs to go spend on something, we talk about it and vise versa. We’re both good at listening, understanding and usually being OK with the spending.
Overspending on the Kids
This is touchy ground. Just because you have kids, doesn’t mean they have to put you into financial ruin. Kids should be a primary reason to finally put an every dollar budget into place.
We have a specific line item for “Kids Stuff.” This can be anything from clothes to school supplies, but we have a set amount we’re willing to spend each month. We increase this budget item for birthdays and Christmas.
When I had my first boy at 21 years old, my cases of beer became diapers for the next 5 years, my clothes spend went way down, and theirs increased. Learn to keep it (and your spouse) within spending boundaries when it comes to your kids.
Keeping Finances Separate
It blows my mind that people recommend people to keep their finances separate after marriage.
When Kayla and I got married at 19 and she went to withdraw her bank account (~$3,000) the teller gave her a hard time. “Are you sure you want to do that? You should keep some in here in case it doesn’t work out.” What a joke.
When Kayla was flying to Wichita to live with me an elderly lady found out she had just gotten married and proceeded to tell her she was too young and missing out on life experiences.
Keeping finances separate creates a wrinkle in a marriage. Maybe it’s not a big wrinkle right now, but when issues arise, goals diverge and bills come due, that wrinkle can become a crease or even a rip.
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