A recent Experian survey reports that more than one-third of people who divorced says it caused them financial ruin. And more than 60 percent of people surveyed said that money issues played a central role in the break up.
As sad as those numbers are, I am not surprised. If you and your spouse or partner aren’t on the same page financially, no amount of love can bridge the money stress. And one of the biggest reasons money rips couples apart is that they don’t create a safe and supportive environment to work on their financial differences. I have seen couples with limited income do a great job working together to make the best possible financial decisions. And I have seen couples with extreme wealth make a mess of things.
Some key steps to building a financially strong marriage:
No One is in Charge. You both are to be equal partners in all financial decisions. I don’t care who makes the money, or makes the most money. That is irrelevant. And don’t you dare let one spouse (typically the husband) handle the investments while the wife handles the monthly budget. That sets up the wife for blame when monthly expenses are higher than expected.
Ladies, I am not letting you off the hook here. I don’t care if your hubby loves the money stuff and you couldn’t be less interested. That’s lazy and dangerous. It is your financial future that is at stake. And the stark reality is that the odds are you will survive your husband. I don’t want you having to learn anything as a widow. The time to be engaged is now.
You Both Maintain Separate Bank Accounts. All income is to be deposited into your joint checking account. All bills are to be paid out of that account. If there is excess income each month, you can split it into equal thirds: leave one-third in the joint account, and move each of the other thirds into your individual accounts. That’s money each of you gets to spend (or save) however you want, on whatever you want. No judgment. No arguing. The idea here is that your first priority is always to meet your household’s financial commitments: paying bills, saving up an emergency fund, saving for retirement. Then, if there is still some money left over, you each get a portion that is your personal stash.
Hire a Money Therapist Before the Fighting Becomes Irreparable. I have long said that each of us has all the tools necessary to be our own best financial advisor. But I also think a talented financial advisor can be a great source of guidance and help. Especially if you and your spouse are unable to see eye to eye on important financial decisions. Having an advisor review your situation and provide an informed unbiased opinion cannot only be of great financial value, it may also help you steer clear of divorce!