Let’s face it: talking about money with your spouse is generally not easy. In case you doubted that, consider that in Fidelity’s latest “Couples & Money” survey, 44% of respondents said they argued about money with their spouse, and 20% indicated money as their most difficult relationship challenge. Almost 40% of those surveyed said they didn’t know how much money their spouse made. Let’s hope the partners who are in the dark about the household income aren’t the ones in charge of the budget!
As unpleasant as financial conversations in marriage can be, most experts agree that, as in every other area of marriage, clear communication around money matters is the best way to avoid the type of stress that can result in divorce. In our work with clients, we can certainly attest to the crucial role played by talking with—and, maybe even more important, listening to—your spouse in matters of family finance.
There are three especially crucial areas where couples need to be clear with each other.
- Debt. The financial stress caused by excessive debt is a leading cause of marital strife. More than half of all married couples enter their union holding debt, and 40% report debt as having a negative impact on their relationship. If there’s one key thing you can do to have greater peace and calm in your marriage, eliminating debt should be at the top of the list. It is likely that one partner will more tolerant of incurring debt than the other, and that is normal. But both partners’ attitudes toward debt should be thoroughly discussed, and both parties need to be open and accepting of the other’s attitudes. This is the only way to find a proper balance in the relationship.
- Saving vs. spending. In most marriages, one partner will be savings-oriented, and the other will be more inclined toward spending. Perhaps it’s part of the whole “opposites attract” principle, but this common combination of traits should be understood and communicated, early on. When discussing this, it’s also important to understand that neither partner is “right” or “wrong” (unless, of course, the spending partner is so out of control that the household bills aren’t getting paid). Here again, a balance needs to be worked out, and both partners need to respect the other’s needs and tendencies. That can’t happen unless they talk about it.
- Budgeting. Some people hate the “b-word” and will do anything to avoid thinking about it, while others cannot function without an annual, monthly, or even weekly spending plan. As financial planners, we certainly encourage individuals and families to budget—i.e., have a plan and goals for how much money enters and leaves the household coffers over a specified period of time. But we also stress that a budget shouldn’t be a club used to beat someone over the head. It should rather be understood as a map leading to a destination. The route can be altered from time to time, as long as the end goal is kept in mind.
At Empyrion Wealth Management, we specialize not only in managing investment portfolios, but also in the “financial coaching” our clients need in order to maintain healthy attitudes in their money matters. In other words, we don’t just try to help our clients get and keep more money; we also want to help them achieve a greater sense of fulfillment along the way. To learn more about how our fiduciary duty to place our clients’ interests foremost leads to improved financial outcomes for our clients, click here to read our white paper, “The Fiduciary Standard and the Individual Investor.”
Stay Diversified, Stay YOUR Course!