It seems kind of obvious, especially if you’ve been married for a while. An article posted at the New York Times.com last month states The Key to Wedded Bliss? Money Matters. It has quickly become one of the most emailed and linked articles on the web right now. In this article, Tara Siegel Bernard claims that the secret to a happy relationship is sharing the same financial values and goals. I agree, but sometimes when you’re busy falling in love, it is easy to gloss over the fact that you don’t see eye to eye on issues like spending and saving.
Bernard lists seven strategies that couples can use to help improve their financial compatibility:
- TALK AND SHARE GOALS: Ideally, this will happen before you are married. However, even couples who have been together for years, sometimes years of fighting about money, can benefit from explicitly sharing their long-term goals. Once you’ve heard about your partner’s goals, you can digest how this works for you and how you can work together to reach these goals.
- RUN A HOME LIKE A BUSINESS: Business plan for their money. They make a budget and stick to it as much as possible. Key partners are all involved in large financial decisions. Someone is responsible for making sure that the bills get paid and checkbook gets balanced. Many couples find it helpful if that responsibility gets shared over the course of a year or two. Military couples, in particular, need to make sure that both partners are on board with how their financial systems operate.
- BE SUPPORTIVE OF CAREERS: This seems so obvious to me. How many people have you known that left the military because their spouse hated it? There are few careers, military or civilian, that can thrive without the support of both partners. Working takes time and energy and it is hard if your spouse resents that you give that time and energy to your job. You’ll find it doubly hard to be successful if your efforts at work are causing trouble at home.
- ENJOY, BUT WITHIN REASON: Take a little money to have fun with your life. When you’re paying off debt or building an emergency fund, keep your splurges small: ice cream cones from the fancy shop or take-out shared on your patio. As you improve your financial position, you might be able to afford a new TV or small trip. The key is balance: if your spending is going to put you back on the financial edge, then it is probably too much.
- USE A MEDIATOR: An independent third-party, whether a financial counselor or a marriage therapist, may be able to find common ground between two partners who seem to disagree about everything to do with money. Having an outsider’s point of view can help bring you and your partner together to decisions that will make you both happy.
- MAINTAIN SOME INDEPENDENCE: Even if it is only $10 a week, each partner needs to have some money that they can spend however they want. When we were first married, my husband and I each had an allowance for things that were outside our budget: McDonalds, beer, new shoes. Knowing that my Big Mac was coming out of my own special money made it easier to spend a little without upsetting our bigger financial plans.
- INVEST IN YOUR MARRIAGE: Even if it costs a little money, you must put time and energy into your marriage. Depending on your family, you might need a babysitter for date night, or a weekend away from a house full of teenagers. Most importantly, don’t be so focused on your financial goals that you forget to keep your relationship strong.
Bernard makes excellent points that make perfect sense to me. I know that I’ve been fortunate that I married someone who thinks basically the same ways about money that I do. We didn’t really talk about it much before we were married, so I know that I’m very lucky. We have used many of these strategies over the years to help keep us on the same financial path. I’ve noticed as we’ve been married longer, it gets easier to just keep on the same direction rather than revisiting our goals and plans. I hope to use this article to jump-start some conversation so that we can keep moving in a positive direction.