Managing finances in a marriage can be tricky. That’s because money can be so emotionally charged, leading to disagreements and conflicts between partners.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, 41% of adults reported that money is a cause of fights or tension in their family, and 66% said money is a significant source of stress. Left unchecked, and when you layer that stress and conflict on top of your relationship, the results can be devastating.
According to data from financial firm TD Ameritrade, 41% of Gen Xers and 29% of baby boomers report ending their marriage due to financial disagreements. In addition, a study of more than 4,500 couples published in the journal Family Relationships said that arguing about money early on in the relationship may be the no. 1 predictor of whether you’ll end up divorced.
The good news is that there are specific things you can do to navigate those challenges and work through knowing how to manage finances in a marriage.
Here are 10 Ways to Stop Money from Wrecking Your Relationship
1. Start on solid ground
One key to successfully navigating finances in a marriage with your partner is to start on solid ground.
For many, this means avoiding any major financial setbacks at the beginning of your relationship and prioritizing money conversations. For example, if you’re not married yet, do your best to avoid going into debt.
If you’re considering remarrying and have existing assets you’re bringing into the marriage, discussing the pros and cons of a prenuptial agreement may be wise. This document is a written contract by two people before they’re married that specifies what each person’s property right would be after marriage.
Whatever the case, do your best to start on the right foot and avoid any significant financial setbacks that can strain your relationship.
2. Discuss your financial situation
Next, be sure to discuss your financial situation.
Money can seem to be one of the most challenging and personal topics to discuss, but that is just one way of looking at it. Conversations about money can be empowering, exciting, and a powerful way to bond with your partner. Getting in sync with your partner about money can bring a real sense of unity to your relationship.
Start by setting some ground rules and ensuring both partners understand that the goal is to create a safe and open environment for discussion. Then, take turns discussing your financial situation.
Focus on sharing high-level metrics like income, expenses, assets, and debts. Then, discuss investing and do your best to understand each other’s views, strategies, and approaches.
Be curious about the other person’s perspective and realize that you both come from different experiences with money. This will help you get a feel for your partner’s financial situation and vice versa.
3. Seek to understand your partner’s and your relationship with money
One of the goals of your money conversations is to understand each other’s relationship with money.
Your relationship with money, often referred to as a “money script,” is your thoughts and beliefs about money. Whether you both realize it or not, these beliefs drive many of your financial decisions. Your relationship to money is likely inherited from your family—shaped by the money experiences and situations you had growing up.
This means two important things:
- Your relationship with money isn’t always serving you in the best way.
- Your relationship with money can be very different from your partner’s.
At a high level, most people’s relationship to money falls into these four “money script” categories, according to Financial Therapist Brad Klontz.
- Money avoidance. Those with a money avoidance script often believe that wealthy people are greedy and money is the root of all evil. This can lead to money-avoidant behavior like avoiding financial planning, overspending, and underearning. This can result in low financial security and stability.
- Money worship. Alternatively, those with a money worship script believe that money is the key to stability, happiness, and freedom. While this often leads to higher levels of financial stability and security, it can also result in lower satisfaction and happiness, as money cannot make you happy.
- Money status. Those with a money status script believe their net worth equals their self-worth. They place material possessions and financial success at the top of their list and think their financial position says something about them as a person.
- Money vigilance. Lastly, money vigilance is considered the healthiest of the four scripts, marked by frequent evaluation of financial habits to ensure goals are achieved and more. But, taken too far, this can be detrimental. Those with money vigilance need to be aware that over-committing to financial health can reduce your satisfaction in other areas of life.
4. Identify shared goals
As a couple, it’s essential to work towards shared goals. Spend time identifying shared financial goals that you can work towards together and map out a plan to achieve them. Some examples could include saving for a family vacation, upgrading your home, or investing for early retirement.
5. Create a shared budget
Creating a shared budget can be critical to your financial success. That’s because the alternative—where one partner establishes the budget for the household—can feel like one partner imposing financial restrictions on the other. Do your best to work together on a budget that works, getting buy-in and commitment from each other.
6. Always tell the truth
Nothing works without integrity. Trust is the lifeblood of a healthy relationship, and it’s no different when it comes to money. So avoid financial infidelity—lying to your partner about financial matters—and if you make a mistake, work quickly to remedy the situation and come clean with your partner.
None of us are perfect with our money and habits. Creating space for each other to talk openly about money and breakdowns will provide a powerful sense of unity between you and your partner.
7. Give each other some freedom
A common financial issue for couples is when one or both of you feel that you have to restrict your spending or explain every purchase to your partner. This can be especially detrimental when one partner in a relationship is the sole breadwinner, causing the other to feel insecure about spending due to their lack of income.
Budget some “fun” money for each partner and release any judgment or critiques about that spending category. Then, both can feel secure knowing they don’t have to check in with their partner about every purchase and can use their fun money on stuff they want.
8. Automate good financial behavior
Certain money habits increase your chances of financial success, such as buying-and-hold investment planning, budgeting, saving, and paying bills on time. As a couple, do your best to automate these financial behaviors.
Making them systematic will increase your odds of financial success. This can include setting up automatic investments into your company’s 401k, transferring money from each paycheck to specific savings goals, and scheduling your debt payments automatically.
9. Set aside “money time”
Another key to staying on the same page is scheduling time to have money conversations.
Ultimately, life is busy, and it can be easy to put off money conversations. So, schedule a time every week, two weeks, or a month to sit down and discuss money with your partner.
Depending on your situation, this conversation could be a quick check-in or a deep dive into a specific financial goal or decision. Whatever the case, focus on creating an open and accepting place to talk about money together as a couple.
10. Consider working with a professional
Lastly, there may come a time in your relationship when it’s best to consult a professional.
For some, this comes when your income and assets get to a level that’s too complex to manage on your own. That’s when it can be critical to sit down with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to discuss the various strategies and tactics you can use to achieve your financial goals.
For others, it may be best to work with a Financial Therapist to come together and understand each other’s money habits and behaviors.
Tencap Wealth Coaching is here to help
If you’re interested in working with a financial planning professional to ensure your and your partner’s financial success, create a true purpose for your money, and get clear about your relationship with money, then Tencap Wealth Coaching is here to help.
At Tencap Wealth Coaching, we’re focused on helping you achieve your financial goals and more through academically sound financial planning. From investment planning to retirement planning services and strategic tax planning, we are here to manage the complexities of your money and allow you to relax and enjoy life with your partner.
Get to know Tencap Wealth Coaching or schedule an introductory meeting below.
Greg Black, CFP®, ChFC®
Greg is a fiduciary who assists you in every area of your financial life, including: tax strategy, investments, estate planning, cash flow optimization, and insurance protection. Each category is interconnected and crucial to ensure you don't unknowingly or excessively forfeit money to financial institutions or the government.