11 Secrets for Managing Money in Marriage
Facebook statuses may paint a picture of the perfect life, with family vacations and celebrations, but your married friends in their 30s and 40s are probably hiding the truth if they insist they never fight. With kids, home ownership, and careers, there is much to disagree about during these decades. According to a national survey by Money magazine, 70 percent of married couples argue about money, with the amount spent on frivolous purchases high on the list of grievances. Are you one of those couples who can't agree on where the money goes?
One of you wants to save every penny and the other is a spendthrift. This situation is all too common among couples. That's why it's important to take each other's spending styles seriously before fights become too frequent. To effectively manage money together, you should understand why your spouse spends or saves the way he or she does. Bankrate notes that family history and definitions of wants and needs speak volumes about spend decisions.
Once you have a full understanding of each other's approach to money, celebrate (yes, celebrate) the differences, asserts the Women's Institute for Financial Education. Let each partner take charge of managing the finances in those areas that align with interests and strengths.
Whether it's saving for house projects, college tuition, or a special vacation, get on the same page regarding financial goals. Each partner can start by compiling a list of what they hope to save for and buy within the next year, over the coming five years, the decade, and beyond. Then sit together and discuss.
Both partners need a say in how much money is designated for which spending categories. Deciding in advance how much goes towards living expenses, savings, and "fun money" lowers the stress level when it's time to pay up. Financial websites and apps, such as Mint, Good Budget, and the two that follow, can help you do this.
A shared budgeting app can help keep both partners on track and on the same system, making money management transparent. The app Better Haves, available for iOS and Android devices, helps couples track expenses together, target amounts for certain categories, and keep an eye on savings.
Mvelopes is a budgeting system built on virtual envelopes, each designated for specific expenses, like groceries, utilities, and extras. By splitting funds accordingly, the app helps couples stay within their means. The app supports Android and iOS devices and the website offers a free budgeting ebook and financial advice.
Date night and money management may not sound like the most logical fit, but if you're really in the hole regarding financial issues, it's probably worth setting aside time every week to jointly check in on the budget and upcoming expenses. Put the kids to bed, bring out the bills, and make money talk fun -- or at least less stressful -- with takeout and a glass of wine.
A survey by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management of affluent Americans found that 89 percent of married couples manage their money jointly. On the other hand, merging or sharing all accounts can be problematic, according to U.S. News and World Report. Each half of the couple has his or her own credit score, regardless whether your accounts are merged or not. Taking charge of certain bills, with your name on the account, that you alone pay helps build a credit score that can be instrumental should you ever need to borrow money on your own. And, depending how much cash you keep in the bank, separate accounts can be beneficial. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures up to $250,000 per account, so maintaining separate accounts can protect more money.
Almost one-quarter of spouses aren't honest with each other about purchases, according to the Money magazine survey. And they're holding back to avoid a fight. Indeed, one in five Americans have spent $500 or more on something without telling their spouse, according to a CreditCards.com report. Money recommends that spouses defuse the secretive shopping issue by allowing each a certain amount of "play" money that can be spent with no questions asked.
Money magazine also found that 62 percent of husbands believe they are better at retirement planning than their wives. This is all the more reason for both partners to take an active role in discussing the future, regardless who is the at-home spouse. Your 30s and 40s are critical decades for solidifying plans for retirement, kids' college tuition, and emergencies. Review investments together two or three times a year and make shared decisions on savings priorities and targets.
If you and your spouse just can't come to a mutual agreement over money without things getting heated, it may be time to call in a financial coach. After all, a small payment for extra help may save you both thousands of dollars down the road and, critically, keep the peace.