Financial arguments are the leading predictor of whether a marriage will end in divorce, according to a 2013 study from Kansas State University.
There are of course no guarantees, but you may be able to increase your chances of marital bliss by avoiding common money mistakes.
Following are seven common money mistakes that couples make.
1. Thinking your spouse’s debt is not your problem
Today’s men and women marry much later in life than those of earlier generations. That means both people in the new union have had plenty of opportunity to rack up a little debt, whether it’s from student loans, credit cards or a shiny new car.
Legally, you are not responsible for paying off the debt your spouse accrued before your marriage. However, you are not being particularly smart — let alone nice — if you decide there is no way your income will be used to pay off Mr. or Ms. Right’s debt.
Ideally, you will have discussed this matter before your wedding day and done your best to clean up bad debt in advance. But if you find yourself married to someone with a boatload of debt, it’s in your best interest to help pay it down as quickly as possible.
2. Failing to join finances
Even if you want to have your own accounts for spending money, you should have a joint account for combined expenses. After all, you are one household now. You’re both enjoying the roof over your head and the heated air in the winter.
Having a single budget ensures there is no resentment about who has more money or who gets stuck with a specific bill. Dump all your money into a joint account, write out a budget that pays all the shared bills and divvy up the extra for spending money.
3. Not having ground rules for how to handle money
Another benefit of having a unified household budget is that it gives you an opportunity to discuss ground rules for how you will manage money together as a couple.
Ground rules will vary from couple to couple, but be sure both you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to answering these questions:
- How much discretionary money can one spouse spend without conferring with the other spouse?
- What discussion needs to take place before one spouse opens a credit card account or takes out a loan?
- If there are kids in the family, do they get an allowance and how is that doled out?
- How will money discussions happen? Will they be scheduled at regular times or called on an as-needed basis?
- What happens with bonuses or unexpected windfalls?
Having ground rules in place will help avoid stressful situations. Go ahead and write them down so there is no confusion about what was said and agreed upon.
4. Keeping secrets and hiding money from your spouse
Can you believe more than half of women keep money secrets from their husbands?
In a 2012 survey by Self.com and Today.com, 56 percent of women and 37 percent of men said they had lied to their partner about money. That could mean they’re opening accounts without their partner’s knowledge, hiding purchases or squirreling away money on the side.
If you’re the one with the secrets, it’s time to come clean. Hiding money details can signal a deeper problem.
If you want your marriage to have staying power, you need to stop the secrets. That 2012 survey also found that most people considered financial infidelity just as damaging as an affair, and 13 percent of respondents said their divorce was the result of money secrets.
5. Leaving the bills in the hands of one person
It’s harder to have money secrets if you work together to pay the bills.
On a practical level, it may make sense to have one person writing the checks and managing the online bill-paying schedule, but that doesn’t mean the other spouse should be left out in the cold.
Couples may find a monthly meeting is a good time to review account balances and look ahead for irregular expenses. This can also be a time to tweak savings goals and re-evaluate spending habits.
If your spouse bristles at the thought of being involved in the budgeting process (see No. 7 below), at least print up account information and hand it to your spouse, along with a monthly snapshot of your current budget and spending.
6. Neglecting to plan for the long term
It is important that you discuss long-range needs such as college, retirement and long-term care.
Failing to do so might not end your marriage, but it could seriously alter it. There may be no retirement home in Florida or no RV in which to travel the country. Without proper preparation, you may find your golden years together are significantly different from what you envisioned on your wedding day.
7. Letting emotions overtake money discussions and decisions
Money can be a highly emotional topic, and the worst mistake you can make is to turn your family finances into a weapon to be used against your spouse.
Yes, he may have blown the last spending money on a video game, but running out to retaliate with your own shopping spree not only damages your relationship, it’s also a dumb financial move.
Another no-no is shaming your spouse over money spent or a lack of income earned. These sorts of behaviors cause resentment and breed mistrust, both of which can be the downfall of your marriage.
Treat your spouse with dignity and respect — perhaps especially if they don’t seem to deserve it. You can’t control your spouse, but responding with grace and compassion may provide the grease needed to open a constructive dialogue.
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Photo Credit: Forbes.com