We’ve all heard the saying “arguing about money is one of the leading reasons for divorce”. When couples argue about money, it often leads to thoughts of dissolving the marriage/relationship, emotional turmoil, anxiety and so many other feelings. But don’t worry! According to an article from US News in June 2014, “all healthy marriages have disagreements over money.” It’s all about how you discuss the disagreements and if you can come up with a solution. With that in mind, my main focus is to ensure you are having the money talk with your spouse/partner on a regular basis. This creates boundaries and trust, and helps you meet your future financial goals. I want to highlight some points to consider if you are not being open and honest with your partner about your finances.
Creditcards.com reports the following about financial infidelity:
- 1 in 5 Americans have spent more than $500 without their partner’s knowledge
- 6-7 million people have secret checking/savings accounts and credit cards
- 1 in 10 say secret purchases resulted in separation/divorce
- 2/3 of married couples have a joint account; many others prefer separate
Many times, secrets are kept to avoid conflict or simply to get what you want, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Some couples have formal arrangements on spending while others have general guidelines. Decide what works best for you! Finances should be based on trust, honesty, respect, compromise and communication.
Here are a few examples:
- We can each spend $100 a month on anything without reporting what it was, how much it costs, etc. Plan to take $200 in cash out of the account each month and spend only the cash.
- To save 10% of our income for emergency savings and/or retirement.
- Discuss any purchase that is more than $200.
Write down your financial goals and brainstorm together. Have a plan for who is going to handle the checkbook or credit/debit card statements. Decide when will you sit down together to input all of the data (and pay bills), and determine where you are going to store receipts that need to be kept.
Another thing to consider is if you will have joint or separate accounts. Everyone has different views and you will find a multitude of opinions out there on the internet. Do what works best for you! If you are used to financial independence, a joint checking might make you feel like you no longer have control. If you choose to keep them separate, you should still be open and honest about what is being spent. While you set these parameters, don’t think of them as restrictions. Instead, remember that you are in this together. You should want to be in control of your finances in order to live a comfortable lifestyle and plan for your future without stress and worry every day.
I cannot stress enough, the importance of doing this together. I have seen several cases where a spouse passes away and the surviving spouse, having never played a role in the process before, is left to handle all of the finances on their own. They don’t know where to begin, what outstanding debts are out there, who their mortgage is with and so much more. To alleviate that issue, take a hard look at your finances together-pull out all bank statements, credit card statements, loan payments or other debt payments, create a budget outlining all income and expenses, and pull your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to ensure you have accounted for everything.
Make sure you have everything written down and that there are not any accounts you do not know about, which could be a sign of secret accounts or identity theft. If it is identity theft, notify your bank and credit card companies, place a fraud alert on your credit reports, create an identity theft report with the FTC (complaint is called an FTC Affidavit), and take the affidavit to file a police report. If you find a hidden account, stay calm and work through this together. If you need assistance handling your credit cards, there is a Debt Management Program that may be beneficial if you have a large amount of debt or several credit cards. Some benefits of a Debt Management Program are lower interest rates, reduced minimum payments and being able to pay off your balance over a 60 month period. Search the internet for options on non-profit credit counseling agencies in your area.
The benefit of communicating about finances is that it will ease financial struggles like not being able to pay the mortgage payment, depleting savings accounts or not being able to save as discussed. When an argument arises about spending $50, you can say, “It was the cash I have to spend on anything I want for the month.” But, if you spent $240 on an item and the agreement is to talk about anything over $200, then you need to discuss what happened and why it wasn’t discussed prior to the purchase. Whatever the situation, try not to overreact. It is a good idea to get to the root of the problem and why one thought it was okay to spend without having a discussion. You may be able to explain both sides and how following the guidelines will result in fewer disagreements and a stronger financial future.
If you happen to find you are having financial bumps, here are a few tips from a blog at Credit Sesame:
Full disclosure; come clean and lay it all on the table. Apologize.
Ask questions of your partner to understand their thoughts on money. They may have been raised on a tight budget and spending money worries them or they may not consider savings a priority. They may think it boosts their mood when they spend money and this needs to be controlled in a way where they have some money to spend (like the $100 in cash a month example), but must understand all expenses must be paid before any money is spent in order to maintain your lifestyle.
Rebuild trust. This is a hard thing to get back once broken, but you CAN do it! Check in on your finances weekly, establish a plan with rules and maintain honesty with all money matters through open communication.
Seek professional help. Apprisen can help review your budget, help get you out of credit card debt (Debt Management Program), review your credit report and many other services. Call us at 1.800.355.2227 or visit us at www.apprisen.com.