How Should Couples Avoid Fights About Money?

February 28, 2013
Excerpt by Michelle Perry Higgins

Start Shopping for Long-Term-Care Insurance at 45Talk About—and Tackle—Financial Issues as a Couple
We all know from experience that relationships are not always wine and roses. They might be like that in the beginning, but reality eventually sets in and it’s time to pay the bills.

Money is only No. 2 on the list of why couples separate (I’ll let you guess what issue is numero uno), but it is still a major problem in relationships. I can’t help you with issue No. 1, but I can give you a few tips about minimizing conflict over money.

1. Understand Your Finances—At least twice a month, sit down and review your pay stubs and bills together. Both of you should understand how much money is coming in as well as where it’s going. This gives you a clear, objective base line for making any adjustments to your spending.

2. Develop a Savings Plan—Proactively talk about how much money you should be putting away for the year, both individually and as a couple. By having an open discussion, you will be more likely to feel that you are on the same page. In this way you are each supportive of the other’s financial goals for retirement, college savings, emergency reserves, automobiles, etc.

3. Make Wise Expenditures—While we are on the subject of new cars, be absolutely sure the two of you discuss any big ticket items before making a purchase. I would never come home with a new 80-inch flat screen or a Porsche without first consulting my spouse. Lay out a plan for large expenses together and consider putting money aside to make the purchase easier on your bank account.

4. Be Honest About How Much You Owe—Never, ever conceal debt from one another. It will rear its ugly head sooner or later, and hiding it could make problems much worse. Treat it like a bandage and tear it off quickly, all at once. If you tackle it together, it may actually bring you closer because you’re no longer hiding the truth.

5. Create a Budget—Establish firm spending limits for important household categories so it eliminates recurring arguments. Make sure each of you has a personal “mad money” fund that you can do with as you please without consulting your mate. We all need to let loose once in a while, and this way you can do it with a clean conscience.

6. Get Professional Help—Locate a solid financial adviser and meet with him or her as a couple. Take the time to sit down and review your investments, goals, financial plan and risk tolerances with him or her. If you and your spouse have money issues, share them with your adviser. They will guide you in the right financial direction.

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