Learning to manage your money is difficult enough when you only have one income to think about. If the studies about millennials’ lack of financial know-how tell us anything, even the savviest savers among us still have a long way to go. Throw in the added pressure of joint accounts with your S.O. — especially a spouse, who legally shares your possessions — and the business of dollars and cents can get emotional and tricky. A recent survey from Experian about the link between finances and divorce shows that money and marriage can often be a dangerous mix.
According to Experian’s report, 59 percent of recently divorced adults attributed their divorce (at least in part) to financial issues. Of those participants, 54 percent said that the specific point of contention in their marriage was their former partner’s excessive spending. In fact, 56 percent of participants said that their former spouses had gone on such serious spending sprees that they were no longer able to pay back their other creditors. Whoa. That’s a lot of shoes or man cave supplies.
Couples also have a concerning lack of knowledge of each other’s financial situation prior to their wedding day. Most people surveyed said they hadn’t been aware of their ex’s bill payment history, student loan debt, credit score, and long-term financial goals prior to their marriage. And divorcees definitely paid for that lack of info. Nearly half of divorcees reported that their credit took a dive while they were wed.
Since divorce itself can almost always cause another hit to your bank accounts (not to mention your heart), it’s best to consider these statistics as a cautionary tale before tying the knot. According to Experian’s experts, you can avoid making similar mistakes by being smart and communicative about your money prior to marriage.
“It’s important for couples to discuss finances before saying ‘I do,’ and to communicate frequently,” says Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education. “Individually, each partner should make sure to be engaged with the household finances so they can protect themselves and their assets if the relationship ends.” The survey notes that any level of communication is helpful, but it’s actually in-depth, quality conversation about money that set happy couples apart.
In order to maximize the odds that our relationships don’t end — at least not because of financial disagreements — we asked Experian for more specific tips on how to deal with money in a marriage.
6 Tips for Avoiding Financial Disagreements
1. Communicate about money, in depth. From the day you say “I do” (and preferably before that), you and your spouse should be open with each other about your finances: your goals, your debts, your challenges, and even those embarrassing spending habits that you’d prefer not to share. While some of these deets may make for uncomfortable conversation now, we can pretty much guarantee that it will be even more awkward down the road when your financial disagreements come to a head and divorce is on the table.
2. Set household goals. Once you and your partner have gotten comfortable discussing your finances, it’s time to start talking about what you’d like to be able to achieve together with your money. This should be the fun part! Do you want to save money to buy a house? Are you going to commit some of your income to a travel fund for an exciting annual vacation? Dream big! Setting some exciting goals as a couple, especially goals that require a financial commitment, will help you remember that you and your spouse are a team.
3. Remember that everyone handles money differently. Finances are a very personal matter, and while the goal is for you and your partner to be able to think about your cash as shared, it may take some time to adjust to that cooperative mindset. We’re all raised with different models of money management and we all develop our own unique methods of dealing with our income when we’re single, so it may require some compromising for you and your bae to figure out how to deal with your household accounts.
4. Discuss a budget. Remember those fun joint goals we mentioned above? Working with your spouse to settle on a reasonable spending limit (especially when it comes to money you’re spending without the other) that you can both uphold will go a long way toward making those goals happen. Even more importantly, committing to a budget — and sticking to it — will ensure that both you and your sweetie are sacrificing luxuries in support of your future plans. You’ll be less likely to fight about money later when you’ve been actively working together to save up over time.
5. Consider establishing “Finance Fridays.” Rather than going out for a pricey date night, the pros at Experian suggest you spend the occasional Friday night at home with your spouse reviewing your bank accounts, credit card bills, and credit report. Finance Fridays would also be a great time to check in on the progress you’re making toward your savings goals. If you’re both sticking to your budget, who says you can’t order in some take-out to add a little fun to a low-key evening of spreadsheets and bills?
6. Get educated as a couple. To ensure that you and your spouse are developing good financial habits that will limit additional stress on your relationship later on, work together to learn more about personal finance, budgeting, and investing. If you’re doing the research with your partner, you’ll be more likely to come up with spending philosophies and savings goals that you can agree on, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities for discussion and compromise along the way.
How do you and your spouse prevent finances from damaging your marriage? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)