My wife and I never fight about money. I used to claim this was because we keep separate finances, but now I know it's because we share similar financial goals and dreams. Even during those years I was deep in debt, I never did anything that might jeopardize our financial future.
Our shared vision has helped us to maintain a successful marriage. We're not alone, however. Writing in last Wednesday's New York Times, Tara Siegel Bernard says that the key to wedded bliss just might be marrying someone who shares your attitudes about money.
Today, while most of us marry for romantic reasons, marriage at its core is still a financial union. So much of what we want — or don't want — out of life boils down to dollars and cents, whether it's how hard we choose to work, how much we consume or how much we save. For some people, it's working 80-hour weeks to finance a third home and country club membership; for others, it means cutting back on office hours to spend more time with the family.
Making those choices as a team is one of the most important ways to preserve your marital assets, and your union, experts say. But it's that much easier when you already share similar outlooks on money matters — or when you can, at the very least, find some middle ground.
If your partner doesn't share your financial philosophy, don't give up hope. Bernard shares seven ways couples can work together to increase their financial compatibility. These suggestions are based on conversations with “the successfully married and from experts on psychology, divorce and finance”:
- Talk and share goals. Communication is key. Kris and will take a brief vacation next month. Besides unwinding, we plan to discuss our goals for the future. It's important for both partners to work together for the same purpose.
- Run a home like a business. In the forthcoming How to Be the Family CFO, Kim Snider writes that there are many similarities between managing a successful business and managing your personal finances. Your goal should be to run a profitable firm!
- Be supportive of careers. Help your partner pursue her dreams. When Kris quit teaching to become a scientist, I was ready to do whatever she needed to help her succeed. And when I decided to quit my job to blog full-time, Kris was my biggest supporter.
- Enjoy, but within reason. It's okay to spend money to enjoy life (that's what it's for!), but don't get caught up in the rat-race, and be sure to save for the future.
- Use a mediator. When you and your partner can't agree on a financial decision, bring in third-party help. If you disagree about how to invest, for example, then see a financial planner.
- Maintain some independence. “Pooling resources is important,” writes Bernard, “but so is maintaining a degree of financial independence.” Many couples with joint finances also maintain separate allowances for each partner.
- Invest in your marriage. Spend time and money on your relationship. Bernard says to consider this “dollar-cost averaging your marriage”, which is a clever. When Kris and I get grumpy with each other, it's almost always because we haven't been doing things together as a couple.
I'm really looking forward to our short vacation next month. Not only will it give me and Kris some much-needed couple time, it will also allow us to decide what we want to accomplish over the next five or ten years. It's a chance to plan our financial future together.
For more on money and marriage, check out these articles from the archives:
- Which should you choose: Joint or separate finances?
- How to stop fighting with your spouse about money (a guest post from Gather Little By Little)
[The New York Times: The key to wedded bliss? Money matters, via reader Jeff V.]