Did you know that disagreement over finances is one of the top reasons for divorce? The overlap of money and marriage is stressful for many couples—perhaps because the stakes are high and emotions run deep, regardless of whether you’re handling a job loss or deciding how to invest an inheritance.
Let’s review 3 issues that commonly cause marriage and finance strain, and discuss techniques to resolve them. But first, we’ll run down a list of key financial questions to ask before marriage—starting the conversation ahead of saying “I do” helps establish a foundation for success.
3 financial questions to ask before marriage
There’s no need to badger your partner with a lengthy interrogation. Start by asking these 3 big-picture questions then guide the conversation toward more detailed topics.
1. What is your financial history? The goal here is to discover your partner’s key beliefs and core philosophy about money. Was he or she raised to be a saver? Does your partner have a large amount of debt? Does it seem your partner is generally happy with what he or she has, or continually striving to buy the latest and greatest?
2. What are your financial goals? This is a great opportunity to see if you are on the same page. Are you both saving to buy a home ASAP—or is it more like a 10-year plan? Is early retirement or living debt-free a major goal?
3. How will we blend our finances? Time to think about logistics, like separate or mutual savings accounts, discretionary spending limits and bill-paying plans.
Already married? Advice for navigating 3 common financial issues
1. Disparate incomes: Maybe you bring home significantly more pay than your partner, or perhaps you’ve been out of a job for several months. These situations often lead one partner to feel discouraged or undervalued—or the other partner to feel entitled.
Experts recommend trying to replace any feelings of fear and shame with feelings of increased control and confidence. “The idea is to normalize and name the situation, prioritize the fears and organize them in a way where they have a process to stabilize their financial situation,” says financial planner Judy Haselton, as told to The New York Times. Try making a list of financial worries, then identifying ways to manage, control or monitor them.
2. Conflict over spending: Whether it’s an unplanned purchase at the mall, buying a new toy for your child or a disagreement over how much to spend on a new car, decisions around spending can cause marital strife.
To create a more constructive environment, make money an ongoing conversation—and a budget can be a great conversation starter. Build a budget with your partner and review it together on a regular basis. See how much money is coming in, analyze where it’s being spent, and discuss plans to save up for major expenses.
3. Managing debt: Student loans, car loans and credit cards can create heavy financial baggage, regardless of whether the debt was accrued independently or as a couple. To reduce conflict, it’s advisable to work together on handling debt.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so one of the best first steps is to share with each other how much you owe and the interest rate of each of the debts,” financial professional Steve Repak tells Bankrate. Once you understand exactly what is owed and at what rate, you can discuss options for paying it off, including debt consolidation, the avalanche method or the snowball method.
Looking to learn more about finances and turn your marriage into a smooth-running money partnership? Stay tuned to our blog: We cover important concepts like handling credit inquiries and understanding personal loans. You can also check out our free, interactive tools for budgeting, setting savings goals and tackling debt.