“For better or for worse… For richer or for poorer.” This is what most of us promise to our spouse when we pledge ourselves in marriage. But unfortunately, many couples today can’t seem to survive either richer or poorer due to poor money management skills.
Some couples stick with their own individual way of managing money, which may or may not mesh with their spouse’s. Others may take the responsibility all on their own shoulders or shove it onto their spouse instead. Some spouses even lie, cheat, and overspend, and cause all trust within the relationship to be a distant memory. As a newly married couple, how can you prevent these tragedies from happening in your own marriage?
There is definitely hope, but you need to act early. In fact, money management can actually be a rewarding way to bond with your loved one. Here are steps to take and tips to make sure you get on the right track for a lifetime of properly managing your joint finances.
- Talk openly about money even before you marry.
As soon you are married, or even before you get married, you should start talking about your goals and financial assets.
- Define shared goals.
You talk about building a life together – buying a home, having children, their college education and how you will protect each other’s health care and retirement. Financial planning might not be romantic, but there is some peace of mind in sharing the same goals.
- Stay in harmony with your shared financial plan.
A financial plan is just the starting point. Life happens and you need to make adjustments. A financial plan can serve as a reminder of what your big goals are and how to reach them. Financial planners can also act as intermediaries on tough financial questions.
- Communicate about what you need.
Women need to be more confident so they can engage in discussions about investing for retirement. Couples need to plan together, and women are too inclined to stay on the side-lines.
- Pool long-term assets for maximum growth and safety.
When you pool resources, you have more for down payments, better access to credit and you can invest more in growth opportunities.
- Share goals and diversify assets.
The more you have invested together, the more creative you can be in your asset mix. It means you can diversify more widely to protect against risk if you combine assets. To get the most out of it, you need to coordinate both spouses’ holdings into one nest egg. With a larger pool of money, you have the leeway to add a few growth stocks with upside that you might not put in a smaller account.
- Respect each other’s money skills.
Couples rarely have the same financial expertise, and it’s not always men who have more. The spouse with skills can lead. One might focus on day-to-day bill paying and cash flow, the other on investing. But both need to be involved with decisions or it can lead to bitterness.
- Support each other through ups and downs.
Spouses can really do a lot to take the pressure off each other. Women have moved near equality to men in terms of income – in the Wells Fargo survey, 25 percent out-earned their male spouses.
- Perform regular financial check-ups
I find it very rare for couples who just want to go off and each do their own thing financially. Most people want to find a financial path and want stay on it. But it requires communication between spouses, creating a financial plan and updating it when things change.