Bust the Budget Break-Ups: 5 Ways to Keep a Strong Financial Relationship
My dad spent his first few years out of college traveling across the country to work on starting up his own business. He married my mom with a burden of debt, but she helped keep them afloat with her teaching job for many years to come. It was trust, communication, and financial planning that kept them together.
Years later, my dad's business gained momentum and he was able to provide more money for their relationship - enough money, in fact, to keep them living comfortably and allowing my mom to retire from her job a few years early.
My parents are perhaps a rare example of a relationship going smoothly. Financial difficulties are one of the biggest causes of divorce, and it's easy to see why: Money is quantifiable, giving measure to communication. As most people know, without communication, a relationship can crumble.
I see the exchange of feelings and views that my parents exemplify as the reason for the strong relationship they maintain today. My dad respects how my mom kept them going in their early days together. After all, he might not be where he is today without her help in the beginning. In return, he has shared his wealth. Their financial relationship couldn't be better.
It's important for couples to see how they can work together with money. No one can predict the future, and since anything is bound to happen (especially in the arena of money), it's important to keep an open mind and open communication.
1) Joint Spending
It may seem like the best way to solve financial difficulties is for each spouse take control of their own finances with their own jobs, but marriage is about working together, and often the seemingly "best" solution to split up the money only ends in resentment. Dividing spending power takes away part of the union of marriage. Understand that in joint spending, contributing the same amount of money to be "fair" is difficult, if impossible, to achieve. Allow yourselves to be flexible, and know that income and circumstances can change over the years (as exemplified by my parents).
Not every part of the financial relationship has to be shared. If you are nervous about the other spouse spending small day-to-day splurges, you can split part of the budget. It's okay to allow some wiggle room, which can help to keep the financial relationship open and honest. This may also allow yourself more freedom so that you don't feel as if you have given up every bit of your freedom to the relationship.
Personality traits are an important part of assigning "roles" within the relationship to handle money. If the old saying is true that opposites attract, you are going to have to understand that your opposite personalities are probably going to create opposing views on how money should be spent or saved in the marriage. While my parents disagree on some financial decisions, they have "assigned" each other roles in the relationship. For example, since my mom is often the organizer and planner for other areas in the marriage, she is in charge of the budgeting. Because my parents understand their strengths and can come to a consensus on issues, they rarely fight over financial difficulties.
Even if you both have similar views on money, it is important to discuss the issues together and keep the communication open. Let each other know when you've spent money or plan on doing so. This may require setting up agreements or "rules" to abide by, but it will prevent disagreements and feelings of mistrust.
If you are just starting a relationship, keep your personality honest and open so that if the relationship progresses further, you will feel more comfortable expressing your views and feelings.
3) Who Makes More?
In a marriage, the power should be equal among spouses, even if one makes more money than the other. Giving one spouse more power than the other just because of income differences only creates more tension and disagreements. Believe it or not, it is more beneficial for spouses with the most money-making power to handle the money decision-making. It is a test of trust, but isn't that what marriages are all about? It worked for my parents, because even though my dad is the one making more money now, he still lets my mom keep most of the financial control with the budgeting.
It is important for couples to record what and how much money is spend to avoid further disagreements, only one of the spouses should be assigned record-keeping. Often it is the wife who records, but you don't always have to follow tradition. Assign roles according to who could handle the situation best. This is another reason why understanding or discussing personalities helps.
Sit down with your spouse and determine a budget together or at least make sure the both of you approve. It should be fair and reasonable. Keep open communication and record a budget to avoid secret spending that can fuel mistrust.
5) Future Planning
Especially if there are kids, it is important to plan for college, graduations, and early deaths in the family. That way, when difficulties or big occasions do arise, you are prepared and have money set aside.
Perhaps we can see marriage as the metaphor for communication. If you are not coming together with finances, you are probably not coming together in your communication. Marriage exemplifies coming together, so join in on the finances and try to synchronize your goals. Stay open in your communication, thoughts, and personalities. Remember to splurge a bit, too - the memories you make with your spouse will keep your relationship strong, relaxed, and bring out the love you have for each other with new experiences.