Should you consolidate your finances as soon as you get married? What if you and your spouse disagree about money matters? Is money truly the number one reason for divorce in America?
Here’s the truth about money and marriage (warning : it’s a somber one!) : According to Huffpost, Insider, Marriage.com, Business Insider, Today, and Dave Ramsey.com — Money is still one of the top 10 reasons for divorce, if not the #1 reason!
An article featured on Today went as far as to say : “Money in and of itself doesn’t cause divorce. Living in poverty is incredibly stressful, and financial stressors can lead to fighting — which can result in divorce. Differences in HOW we spend or save money can also be incredibly difficult to navigate in a marriage. One person wants to shop at TJ Maxx, the other at Bergdorf Goodman.
Another money-related issue with the rise of successful women is that they are out-earning their spouses in increasing numbers. This ‘modernizing’ can be tough for even the most enlightened couples — and can cause a relationship to derail as well.” (emphasis added)
Yep, money ranks right up there with infidelity and substance abuse as a leading cause of marriage strife (and divorce). And if what Today is saying, women starting their own businesses is just adding to the strain. Yikes!
I know you totally understand, it’s not always easy to get on the same page about money. While women may be more likely to spend smaller amounts more often (we’re “shoppers”, I get it!), men tend to make fewer purchases but of much larger amounts (hello expensive hobbies!). Women tend to like more material things while men tend to spend more on expensive hobbies, tools, etc.
While those differences aren’t enough to put us over the edge, not discussing our differences and secretly boiling about our partner’s spending tendencies is what will get us in the end.
According to CNN Money, some 80% of couples have hid purchases from each other.
Our relationships are in money crisis! And while I don’t believe there is one right way to do this, I do believe there is hope!
So today I want to share five steps to take to become a team in your finances and make strides toward your personal money goals together.
The very first step I recommend when it comes to money is starting with a dream list. When it comes to money, we often think about the things we need to STOP doing first, but like every good dieter knows—before restricting yourself it’s important to visualize the end goal.
Sit down and talk through what you would love to buy or achieve in your finances. It will be fun to discover shared dreams when it comes to your money, something you may have not known before. Knowing your big picture goals is a huge step toward tackling the harder financial changes as a team.
Here’s the deal, we all have different money personalities and things we value enough to spend our money on. I don’t think many people are in the habit of thinking about, naming or discussing their money “values”.
So let me introduce you to the idea! Think about the things you would easily spend your money to do, to buy, or to achieve? Some people value material things, some value experiences and travel, others really want to be debt-free, while others don’t mind to have debt for things that matter to them (YOLO, right?).
Identifying your money values is an important step in your relationship as it allows you and your spouse to understand why you spend the way you do. This is also a great way to see why you may disagree on your individual spending habits. Instead of labeling these differences as flaws or bad habits, this step establishes the differences in values. Once these differences are understood it’s much easier to find balance and compromise as a team.
A word of caution here : One value is not more “righteous” or “right” than another. They are simply different.
It’s easy for some to believe debt-reduction is the right thing to do while the other spouse just as strongly believes in living for the now. With one couple I worked with, the husband really wanted to pay off debt while the wife really wanted to travel. There was always a tension in their marriage financially because they had such different money values. Often times these values cannot be changed and no amount of arguing will “fix” the other person. In fact, arguing about money typically just leads to avoiding the topic altogether and encourages deep feelings of bitterness and shame.
In the case of this particular couple, understanding these differences in values changed their conversation about money and they were able to set aside money for each of their individual goals (debt reduction and travel) making both partners feel satisfied and excited about achieving these goals together. While they weren’t able to reduce debt as quickly as the husband wanted, and the wife didn’t get to travel to all her dream destinations, they found a way to work together and make both of these goals priority in their finances.
Takeaway : Give equal weight to your money dreams, understand how values influence behavior, and respect your differences instead of trying to change the other person!
The easiest way to do this (and what I believe to be the most important financial document) is your net worth statement. This is a big picture overview of your at-home finances. It’s a clear summary of what you owe and what you own.
This is a document Kyle and I update once a year so we can track our progress on an annual basis. Each year as we do our annual planning, we look at our updated net worth statement and set our big money goals together for the year. Usually this is some combination of debt-reduction, savings, and one big purchase or project.
This is more commonly referred to as a budget. But I believe budget feels like a six-letter curse word! It feels restrictive, doesn’t it? Instead, make a plan to spend … with intention. Look at how much money you have coming in monthly, then take a look at where your money has been going (printing off bank statements will help here), and finally establish a written plan for the upcoming month telling your money where you want it to go!
Bonus : Are you self-employed and dealing with fluctuating income? This definitely makes home budgeting more complicated.
As anyone who has ever achieved a big goal can attest, setting up your environment for success is the key to making big changes! I recommend starting with one big goal at a time. Do you want to cut your eating out spending in half this month? Start there! Would you like to build up your emergency fund to 3-months of expenses? Start there!
Choose one goal to start working on together and map a plan to take the steps necessary to achieve that goal! With each accomplishment you’ll build confidence and continued commitment to your big dreams getting you that much more excited about tackling the next big goal!
Kyle and I get a set amount each week that is totally ours to spend however we want. Usually I spend mine on Starbucks and some Target purchase, while Kyle usually hoards his up and spends on a bigger ticket item he’s been wanting (usually a tool for the garage!). You’re going to love this money hack! Just sayin’.⠀
When Kyle and I started dating we both worked in finance. Each Friday we would grab breakfast and talk about what went well that week in our individual businesses and then share our goals for the upcoming week.
When we got married we carried on this tradition and monthly take ourselves on a “money date”. It’s usually a Friday morning breakfast where we sit down and talk about what went well that month personally, professionally and financially. We look at our spending, review progress towards our financial goals, and get on the same page about any changes needed in the upcoming month. These money dates make something that isn’t always fun and can be somewhat tedious really fun.
This is one place you, your spouse, and your “emergency contact” know about. Kyle and I use a plastic file box (I’m pretty sure from Walmart or Amazon). It’s a perfect place to gather all your financial documents. We file all our financial paperwork here throughout the year as it comes in the mail and then once a year “clean out” the files with only the most up-to date information.
Money doesn’t have to be a source of tension in your relationship! I hope these steps give you a starting point to talk about money with your spouse, become a team when it comes to your at-home finances, and achieve your big money dreams together!
Just remember : the right way to do this is the way you’ll both do it!
Don’t try to be perfect. Maybe cash spending works for you, maybe it doesn’t. The right way is the way you’re most likely to follow! Find what works, ditch what doesn’t, and give yourself grace on the journey.
If you found this article helpful, I’d love to dive even deeper with you! I put together a FREE PDF GUIDE to get you started! This Quickstart Guide to Financial Freedom is a completely free, 8-page guide that will get you started on your journey toward understanding your personal finances and is made specifically for the self-employed, business owner, entrepreneur-type because I totally understand working with fluctuating income is challenging!
Alright, are you ready to stop living paycheck to paycheck and make real progress toward your financial goals?! I hope this article was just the inspiration to get you started!
To learn more about Shanna’s philosophy on personal finance and get her exact blueprint for personal financial success. Click here.