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5 steps to marital money bliss

Getting married? Money could be the reason you end up divorced. Take these steps now and avoid the battles and frustrations later on.

By MSN Money Partner May 22, 2013 1:22PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

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If you're heading down the aisle, we have some scary statistics for you. Nearly 30% of married couples say money is the No. 1 source of stress in their relationship, according to a study by American Express, and money issues are largely blamed as a top cause of divorce by many experts.


How do you avoid the strain? Here's how to get on the same financial track as your partner before you wed.


1. Look for red flags

Look for thoughts or actions on your partner's part that may not mesh well with your own. Does your partner make big purchases on payday rather than put money in a savings account? Does he forget to pay the bills on time? Everyone makes money mistakes, but a pattern of behavior isn't going to change just because you tie the knot. Pay attention, and talk about your concerns.


2. Discuss your money habits

Only 43% of couples talk about money before marriage, according to American Express. That's sad, because talking openly about finances is one of the best things you can do for your relationship and future married life. Set a time to sit down and have that discussion. Here's some fodder for that conversation:

  • How do you view money? Some people see money as a means to reach goals. Other people see it as a way to pay the bills and have a good time. You'll want to be on the same page with this one.
  • What debts do you have? You don't want to find out your partner has a huge load of debt after the wedding ceremony. Perhaps they're student loans or maybe the result of childish irresponsibility. What is your partner's plan to pay them off? Is that plan realistic?
  • What is your credit score? It might feel strange to ask, but you should know your partner's credit score. If you plan to buy a house, take on new joint credit cards, or get other loans together, a bad credit score will mean you pay higher interest rates.
  • What are your future money plans? Do you plan on making a big purchase soon? Do you have other savings goals? Are you serious about setting aside money for retirement? How much have you saved?

Bride and groom arm in arm, smiling, high angle view, portrait © BLOOM image, BLOOMimage, Getty Images3. Set goals

Merging lives and money means merging goals. Before you get married, you and your partner should come up with a few financial goals you both want to achieve. Some things to consider:

  • What are our goals? Whether you want to buy a house, save for retirement, get a new car, or take a two-week vacation every year, having mutual goals keeps you working together and gives you both something to look forward to.
  • What's the time frame? You've both figured out you want to buy your own home. But what if you want a house in the next year and your future spouse is fine with making the move in, perhaps, five years? Agreeing on a timetable has obvious benefits.
  • What is my part? Set clear actions for both parties to reach your goals. For example, if you make more money than your partner, maybe you'll feel comfortable contributing more to your goals.

4. Make a plan

Sixty-six percent of survey respondents told American Express they share all monthly expenses, and 34% divide up their monthly bills based on factors like income. How do you plan to pay the bills?


Before you say "I do," set up a household budget and decide who will pay for what. Deciding what is fair in your relationship ahead of time will cut down on arguments and stress later on.


5. Take a test-drive with your wedding plans

Remember when Monica and Chandler got married on "Friends"? Monica thought her parents would pay for her huge dream wedding, but when they didn't, we found out Chandler had enough money in savings to cover the expense. By today's standards that would be $28,427 on average, according to The Knot. In the end, Monica and Chandler decided to scale back and save some of that money for their future goals -- a true sign of financial compatibility.


Consider the wedding as a way to test-drive managing money with your future spouse. Keep your partner involved in the planning and make big and small purchases together. If you can learn to agree on costs, you're well on your way to managing money as a couple.

 

More on Money Talks News:

3Comments
May 22, 2013 5:55PM
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Weird, communicating openly with your partner is a good key to success in a marriage...

 

In all seriousness, some people are good with money and some are not.  Take my wife and I for instance.  I'm compulsive and I stink at saving money, whereas she's the financial brains.  I know my behavior annoys her in this regard, so we sat down and discussed allowances (my idea).  I wanted to know how much I could spend on whatever I wanted without hurting our finances.  She has problems letting herself spend money on something, and this lets her know that she can get something for herself if she wants it.

 

I now keep an idea on what I use my money on, and she gets to reward herself more often.  Basically I'm agreeing with 2-5, but on number 1, that person can change, you just have to find what financing planning will work for you.


If both folks are spenders, well, there might be a problem.

May 22, 2013 7:42PM
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It really scares me that this needs to be explained.
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