Numerous studies point to money as one of the leading causes of divorce. From different spending habits and financial goals to one spouse earning considerably more income than the other, money can be a polarizing issue in a marriage, straining it to the breaking point.
Money problems within a marriage can spiral out of control when one spouse or both establish detrimental financial habits, such as overspending, increasing debt, and poor priorities. Things worsen when these spending behaviors occur without the other’s knowledge. Thus, communication, financial advisors say, is a key component to a couple keeping their financial house – and perhaps their marriage – in order. And ideally, the couple will have honest and thorough money conversations on a consistent basis.
“Successful relationships require open communication and trust, but there are some conversations that are harder to have than others,” says Al Zdenek, (www.AlZdenek.com), the author of the book Master Your Cash Flow: The Key To Grow And Retain Wealth and of the upcoming book Master Your Cash Flow: The Key To Grow A Valuable Business.
“One of the most difficult ones is about money. It’s serious and can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or scary.”
Zdenek gives three tips to couples on making a healthy, organized discussion about money a consistent part of their marriage:
- Planning the talk. This is the first step and it’s an important one. “Find a time when you can both talk without distractions – no phones, TV, or kids,” Zdenek says. “It’s also a good idea to have these meetings monthly, or at least quarterly, to ensure you’re on the same page.”
- Discussing the hard numbers. You both should be prepared to discuss your budget as well as plans for savings and retirement. In a 2017 Magnify Money Divorce and Debt survey, 70 percent of respondents who said their divorce was due to money issues also said they didn’t stick to a budget during the marriage. “Bring notes about how your family has handled money in the past and how you would follow or change those steps,” Zdenek says. “Is it best to have joint bank accounts or single? Now is also the time to talk about financial goals and dreams, and to see how together you can make them come true.”
- Remember, it’s ‘We,’ not ‘I.’ It’s no longer just about you since you’re building your lives together. “It should also be noted that empathy will help with these conversations,” Zdenek says. “Try to understand where your partner is coming from, especially if you have different spending habits. It’s also important to listen to qualms your partner may have.”
“It’s important to remember that old saying: ‘No one is perfect,’ ” Zdenek says. “Both of you are going to make financial errors. Be forgiving and understanding. And then try to figure ways to prevent it from happening again.”
About Al Zdenek
An author, speaker, and thought leader, Al Zdenek (www.AlZdenek.com) is executive vice president at Mercer Advisors. A leader in the wealth management industry for over 30 years, he is a personal financial specialist, certified public accountant and former president, CEO and founder of Traust Sollus Wealth Management.