LIFE series: Marriage

It could be said that life is a series of events. We plan and prepare for these moments in time, but can’t control everything . In addition to the uncontrollable aspects of life, we rarely get to hold just the beautiful or just the hard, many times we are found holding both at the same time. This is life and as financial advisers this is why we do what we do. We plan and prepare where we can, and then we walk with you through the hard days, the best days, the unpredictable days, the expected days, along the way making sure you are pointed in the right direction.

In this next blog series, we will offer a bit of financial guidance for some of the major life events you might encounter. We will not only cover the best days, but we will also cover the hardest days too. This is life and we are here to offer You-Only AdviceTM every step of the way. It’s February, so it only seems right to begin with the major life event of marriage. Let’s get started!

You may have heard the statistic “money is the number one cause of divorce”. While not entirely true, money certainly can be a topic of contention. Communication around money matters is paramount for all marriages. If you and your spouse tend to rumble over money, here are a few thoughts to consider:

You and your spouse may come from different financial backgrounds and hold different financial beliefs. Financial behaviors and beliefs influence daily life as well as long-term decisions.  If you haven’t already, spend time getting to know how your spouse perceives money. Here are a few questions to get you started:

a.    When you lived at home, how was money discussed?

b.    Did your parents argue about money?

c.     As a child, did you feel like you had as much, more, or less than your peers?

d.    What is your relationship with money?

e.    Do you feel like you manage money well?

f.      What role do you believe money plays in our lives? Is it a tool to get to where we want to be? Something that is meant for fun and excitement? Something that we should fear because of potential loss?  A combination of things?

Knowing your spouse’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, and how they were formed will give you a deeper and more empathetic understanding of how they approach money. 

If you and your spouse manage different responsibilities in the home (i.e., one of you manages the money and the other runs the household), swap roles for a brief period. It is common for spouses to misunderstand the responsibilities of the other. For example, we have worked with couples where one spouse works outside of the home and earns most of the income. The other spouse manages the household, including grocery shopping, cleaning, buying clothing and other necessities for their children, and paying for entertainment and other family outings. We have heard the same argument numerous times:

Spouse A (works outside the home): “We have a set amount of money for running the household each month, but my spouse always needs more money!”


Spouse B (manages the household): “I am so frustrated! My spouse has no idea what it takes for our household to stay on track! I budget the best I can with the money we have allocated, but it never seems to be enough! Groceries are expensive, our kids grow so fast, and their activities cost a lot of money. It’s not like I am blowing money on frivolous things.”

This would be a great time for the spouses to change up responsibilities. Spouse A could take on the shopping, clothes buying, and entertainment spending to see how much money things actually cost.  This would also be an opening for conversation around goals for the family. More often than not, both spouses have genuine intentions and only want good outcomes for the family.

If you are newly married or on your way to the altar, there are additional things to consider:

1.    Communicate! Schedule weekly meetings to review upcoming expenses to plan financially for costs. Each person will understand financial expectations for the household budget, avoiding surprises. Avoid high-stress times that could lead to arguments, pick a time when you are both relaxed to have discussions about money.

2.    Know your goals. Each person must know the other’s financial goals and desires. Post the goals in a prominent location for frequent reminders.

3.    Pay attention to emotional triggers. Are there words or behaviors that cause an emotional response? Spend time processing the possible “why’s.” You may want to consider therapy to help with processing financial triggers if they are a burden.

4.    Trust but verify. If the relationship is new, but headed for a legal commitment, ask for copies of credit reports and financial statements. No information should be off-limits.  This is the time to learn about your soon-to-be spouse’s financial history. Think through and make a list of questions you would like to ask before you have the conversation.  Be thorough and specific.

While money and marriage can be a touchy topic, with some purposeful planning and preparation it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be great source of joy when both parties support the goals set and move forward together. So, don’t be afraid to ask the questions and do the work. It’s like they say, better together.

However, sometimes, you’re not better together and the hard becomes impossible. You are not alone, and this is not the end of your road. Keep your head up

Next up in this Life series: divorce. 

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