There’s an old joke that parents have been telling their children forever, it goes like this. “You know son/daughter, it’s just as easy to marry a rich person as it is to marry a poor one”. While there may be some truth to that statement, most of us end up following our hearts and not our wallets. And let’s face it, marriage is hard enough, so when you add money problems into the mix it can be the final nail in the coffin. In fact, in a recent study money was cited as the reason for a divorce 21% of the time. But it doesn’t have to be that way, in this article we’ll be dealing with the 10 most common money issues in marriage and how you can navigate them for a lifetime of happiness.
The 10 Most Common Money Issues in Marriage
- Starting out on the wrong foot. – It’s not unusual for couples to avoid talking about money and finance especially in the beginning of a relationship. However, once a relationship becomes serious it’s time to discuss serious issues. Each party needs to have a clear understanding of the other’s financial situation before they get married. After all, once you are married your spouse’s financial history is going to affect you. This is especially true if there are a lot of late payments, a lot of debt or they have a history of bankruptcy. And speaking of marriage, the number one way to couples start out on the wrong foot is by spending too much on the wedding. As a general rule (that nobody follows), if you need to go into debt to pay for a wedding, you’re spending too much. If you need tips on how to save money on your wedding, check out “Plan Your Dream Wedding On A Real Budget“.
- Not doing a self-inventory of your finances. Believe it or not, some people only have a vague idea of their financial situation. If you’re not sure how much you still owe on student debt, car or credit card loans, you need to find out. Equally as important, you need to take a close examination of your attitude about money. It’s all too easy to assume that how we view and spend money as the “correct” way to do it. In fact, how you relate to money has more to do with how you were raised than any objective standard of right or wrong. For example, do you think extended warranties are a waste of money or an asset that provides piece of mind? Are name brand products better that the alternative or do they just cost more? Do you use a spreadsheet to track you bills and monthly expenses or do you just pay bills when they arrive? Realizing that everyone relates to money differently will help you reach compromises with your significant other.
- Secret spending. – I once dealt with a couple who never seemed to be able to save any money despite having a considerable income. As it turned out, both parties were spending more than they admitted. It turned out that the Saturday night poker games the husband participated in weren’t the nickel and dime games they had started off being, and as the stakes rose he was feeling peer pressure to play the stakes he really didn’t want to. His wife had developed her own little habit of buying clothes, cutting the tags off and putting them in the back of the closet. Then in a month or two she would wear them and if her husband asks if it was a new dress, she would reply that “no, I’ve had this for a while”. Secrets and deception about how much and what you spend money on will chip away at any relationship
- Not setting guidelines. – As adults, no one likes to be constantly monitored or feel like they have to justify every little thing that they do or spend money on. But it is important to have clear guidelines for larger purchases that will affect both parties. Sit down with your partner and agree on how much money can be spent without discussing the purchase with the other party. This number can change over time. For instance, a young newly married couples on a tight budget may say that any purchase over $100 needs to be cleared with the other person. As time goes on and incomes rise that number may go to $500, $1,000 or $5,000. The important thing is that in your “partnership”, the number is agreed upon and that each partner show respect to the other by adhering to the agreed amount.
- Not setting goals. – One of the most common money issues in marriage is not defining long and short-term goals. Where do you see your life together in a year, five years, ten years? What are the priorities in the marriage? Do we want to save up enough money for a down payment on a house before having kids or is starting a family a higher priority? Are you or your spouse willing to spend time away from one another so that a career can advance and grow? How much will we need for retirement and what investment strategies should we use to get there? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it’s important that both of you are on the same page.
- Being a ‘Status Seeker”. – As a very wise man once said to me, “Never love anything that can’t love you back”. It may seem obvious, but this is an issue that is more common than you might think. A status seeker is someone who prioritizes things over relationships. Being a status seeker or having one as a partner can result in serious issues for the marriage. I know of a couple where both are status seekers. The husband insists on buying two new cars every year (Tesla’s no less) for him and his wife. The wife regularly purchases designer handbags costing thousands of dollars apiece, all the while taking out loans to pay for constant cosmetic surgery. Valuing positions over relationships can only lead to disaster. Good times don’t last forever, and when the inevitable downturn comes you’ll find yourself both broke and alone.
- Not setting a budget. – Yes, it’s the dreaded “B” word. having a household budget that you both agree to will save many arguments. Now, there are different ways to approach the budgeting process depending on your personal spending habits. You can learn more about that here. It’s important to remember that while your budget needs to include all of your non-negotiable spending like rent, utilities, insurance and car payments. It’s equally as important to budget things that support your relationship like date nights, babysitters, vacations, etc. This way, a budget feels less restrictive and more like a life strategy.
- Jealousy and ego. – When talking about the most common money issues in marriage, having one spouse to make more money that the other can be a huge one if not handled right. The one who makes more money will often feel that they should have a greater say in how it’s spent. Be careful about this one, while that feeling may seem justified it creates a power imbalance that can leave the spouse who earns less (or is a homemaker) feeling unappreciated. Always keep in mind that in a marriage both partners are a team, and each one contributes to the success of the team in their own way. This is another reason having an agreed upon budget is desirable.
- Playing the blame game. – Even if you have done everything right as a couple, talked about finances, set goals, developed and stuck to a budget etc. You will still have financial setbacks in your life. Maybe you bought a house at the top of the housing market and one of you lost your job. Maybe your uncle Harry told you about a “sure thing” in the stock market that went belly up. Or maybe your partner comes down with an illness that disables them. These things happen all the time, but placing blame only causes hostility and resentment. If you can rededicate yourself to your partner during these times your marriage will turn out stronger. Remember, tough times don’t last but tough people do.
- Neglecting to save enough. – This is by far the most common money issue in marriage. As humans, we are wired to seek immediate gratification. It served us well when we were living in caves. If you came across a bunch of fruit or made a buffalo kill, you would take advantage of the bounty while you could. Gorging on the bounty right in front of you made sense, there was no way to store it for future use so if you didn’t take advantage of it when it was available, it would just rot. Unfortunately, this trait is not beneficial in the modern world. While people rarely lived into their thirties as cavemen, we now regularly live into our eighties and beyond. Having a plan for savings is essential, get together with a trusted financial planner and make a plan. Then commit to funding that plan with every paycheck. Do this on top of any retirement plan offered by your employer. By committing to saving just ten cents for every dollar you make, you can easily accumulate over a million dollars during your working years. That is on top of whatever retirement plan your company offers.
The 10 Most Common Money Issues in Marriage:
Increasing Your Income
Money issues in marriage are just a fact of life but developing the skills necessary to deal with them is something you can learn. I hope that we have given you the tools necessary to navigate the financial issues that you will most likely face in your life and relationships. But what if you want to increase your income? The obvious advantages are that money issues become less of a priority if you have the cash to pay all of the bills. You are able to take more time off and vacation with friends and family. You will also be able to retire earlier doing the things that you want to do.
So, with that in mind here are some suggestions on how to increase your income and live a better life. Please keep in mind that these options don’t stand alone, you can and should use several of them simultaneously to maximize your potential income.
- Ask for a raise. – There’s an old saying that you won’t get what you don’t ask for. If you have been a good employee and served the company well, don’t be afraid to ask for a raise. Bosses don’t like turnover; it creates more work for them in training and oversight. So, if you have proven value and your superiors recognize it, a modest raise is easy to justify.
- Develop additional skills. – Sometimes asking for a raise isn’t an option, this is especially true if the job is low skilled or entry level. In that case you need to prove that you are more of an asset to the company than every other worker there. Get a certification that makes you stand out from the crowd. Volunteer for shifts and work assignments that others won’t. Ask a higher up if they would mentor you. All of these things will make you stand out for when the next promotion is considered.
- Go back to school. – It’s just a fact that a lot of employers require a degree or certification in order to qualify for certain jobs. If that’s the case for you, consider taking classes online or at a community college to fulfill the requirements for the job. While it does take time, effort and money, with all the options available in today’s world it’s easier than ever.
- Develop a passive income stream. – Easier said than done, but this is a great strategy to develop both long-term income and wealth. There are several ways to develop a passive income, including: buying stocks that pay a quarterly dividend, buying rental properties, getting a side gig (driving for Uber, Lyft etc). Or starting your own business. Affiliate marketing is a great way to start your own business without spending a lot of money (if you’re interested, you can get a free introductory course on affiliate marketing by clicking HERE).
- Take advantage of your hobbies. – Do you like to sew? How about garden? Are you a good photographer? All of these hobbies can be income producing. People pay a lot of money for fresh produce at farmers markets. There is also a high demand for homemade quilts, pillow cases and baby clothes. Finally, photographers can be expensive how about offering your services for a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand?
The Most Common Money Issues in Marriage:
The Benefits of Doing it Right
There has never been a short cut to success of any kind. Not in business, life or relationships. In order to be successful in any aspect of life it’s important to start with a solid foundation. Considering that most people go into a marriage expecting a life-long commitment, it just makes sense to start your life out right.
Besides, the benefits definitely outweigh costs. Relationships and marriage are tough enough, life is going to throw you curveballs already. But having a strong foundation will help you weather the storms easier. Below are some of the benefits of savvy financial management.
- You’ll be working as a team. Setting goals and having a plan means that you are both on the same page and you can share the successes and failures together.
- It will strengthen the bond between you. Setting financial goals and working together to achieve those goals will make your relationship stronger.
- You will be modeling responsible money management. Managing money doesn’t come naturally. It’s important for kids to see delayed gratification as a virtue. Your attitude about money will be passed on to your children.
- You can avoid “surprises“. Knowing that there is a balloon payment on a loan coming due gives you time to prepare. Having the bill show up in the mail doesn’t.
- You’ll have a stronger marriage. Lack of trust is the number one reason that people get divorced. By constantly communicating about the hard things (finances being one). You can strengthen your marriage and weather the inevitable storms.
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