Money is an age old problem that has affected marriages for a long time. According to research, arguing about money is the top predictor of divorce, especially when those arguments happen early in marriage. Even though some of these marriages don’t end in divorce, there is constant fighting about money problems. This constant tension can kill whatever happiness the couple have and turn marriage into a sour experience. Here are major money issues in marriage and how to navigate them.
My money, your money attitude: When you were single, whatever money you had you spent it however way you wanted. In marriage, you have to adjust, you are now one and as such what you both make is now family money – regardless of who makes more than the other. It is takes serious adjustment but it is important that you do this. Some couples open a joint account and others work with separate accounts. It really does not matter; what is important is transparency, trustworthiness and accountability. This means that a secret account is out of question.
Debt: This is one of biggest reasons couples fight. There are spouses who have lots of debt and even worse, sometimes their partner is not even aware of those debts. When you get married, money becomes a joint affair which means any personal debts become joint debt. In this case, both of you need to sit down from the start of your marriage and consolidate your debts. Write it down; who do you owe money and how much? Go further and write the interest rates of each of those loans. When we got married, I had student loans from my campus days. We sat down and strategized how much we would be paying per month and right now we are done paying. Sometimes you will need to borrow somewhere you’ll get a lower rate and pay off the one with high rates. The only debt that should take long is mortgage and even this should be paid in huge chunks whenever possible. Credit cards are a no-no. The idea here is to tackle debt together and fiercely. If your spouse borrows money without your consent, that’s a problem and you need to deal with it.
Major purchases: Items that cost a lot have to be discussed beforehand. These range from cars to electronics. As a couple you need to put a cap beyond which you need to discuss that purchase. This will help you save more by avoiding instances where your spouse went out and bought a fridge without telling you. The point is partnership. Discussing it allows you to see whether you need it, how much will it cost and can you afford it as well as places you can get a discount. After 3 years of marriage we finally bought a TV last month. I remember we talked about it for a while and both of us checked around for good deals. As we agreed when we would buy it we set the money aside.
Investments: The choice of investment and the amount to invest also needs to be discussed. If neither of you is in the financial sector nor understands investment options, you might need to work with a company that does. Even if you get a company to do it, both of you should be aware of how your portfolio is doing. Any decisions regarding whether to add or reduce your investment should be jointly discussed. For example if you want to buy land, it would be wise if both of you went to inspect the land and be involved in the entire purchase process. This will prevent fights of investing in something your partner considers a poor choice.
Giving: This is a delicate one and also needs to be discussed every time need arises. My husband and I sit down every end month and as we do our budget we discuss all giving for the next month such as tithe and support to friends or extended family. This prevents one person from feeling their family is neglected. We go a step further, whenever we are sending money to my family, my husband sends it and I do the same with his family. This lets them know that we are on the same page and there is nothing like “our person”. It also puts your spouse in good light with the other family. However, when we need to say no to money requests (because sometimes you have to) each person speaks to their family. This again prevents each spouse from looking bad with the in-laws.
Saving – You need to put aside an emergency fund and also save for the future. You should also save for family projects (to avoid debt) such as school fees for you and/or the kids. At any one point you should both be aware of how much money you have saved.
Who should be in charge of the money? In this world, there are spenders and there are savers. The saver is usually more frugal and is good at planning the finances. For some families it is the husband and in others it is the wife. In ours, I am the saver so I handle our money – after we have budgeted each month. When you are married, you are now a team and in a team each participant has their strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to allocate duties matching each person’s strengths.
Budget every month: You will notice that throughout this post I have spoken on being on the same page in all matters. Budgeting allows you to discuss each month’s incomes, investments and expenditure. Budget for even mundane things such as dinner – eating out on date nights. If each person usually gets an allowance, this is a great time to allocate it. After budgeting, make it clear who is to sort which bills to ensure no bill goes unpaid. Keep a book or use an excel sheet so you can always look back and see how you’ve been using your money. It will also show you any bad trends and areas to do better.
Two people can do so much together; more than any individual can. This is true even for money. If you can find a way to pull all your resources together and channel then in areas you have discussed and agreed, you will be surprised the things you will have achieved in a few years.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.