The ins and outs of handling finances in marriage

How to talk green without turning red

Solid communication about money can have a big impact on a couple’s happiness. David Olson, a professor at the University of Minnesota, talked to 21,000 couples and found that the happiest ones (mostly) agreed on how to spend, save, deal with debt and make financial decisions together.1

Level up in your relationship with these money management tips for couples. They may help you tackle joint finances with your spouse or significant other without losing your cool.

Get real

Author Kathleen Burns Kingsbury spells out just how much Americans hate talking about money in her 2017 book Breaking Money Silence. “Almost half of Americans say that the most difficult topic to discuss with others is personal finance and they would rather discuss death, politics or religion,” she writes. “Take a minute to let that information sink in. Many people would rather discuss dying than finances!”

But conversations about handling finances in marriage can be a great opportunity for growth in your relationship. “Structured in the right way, shared in the right way, talking about your fears, upsets and frustrations over finances can bring you closer as a couple,” personal development expert Gary John Bishop tells HuffPost.

For example, you might discuss the types of bank accounts you both have, how you prefer to budget, your comfort level with debt and your beliefs about spending and saving. The key is honesty, even if it’s a little scary. After all, you’re joining forces in an effort to reach your goals together. The more closely you align early on, the fewer unwanted surprises you’re likely to encounter down the road.

Make it fun

Consider scheduling regular check-ins with your partner once a month or once a season. Discuss the current state of your finances as well as your earliest memories of money, fears surrounding it and what you would do if it was no object. Bonus points if you mix these conversations with activities and experiences you both enjoy.

Have a money heart-to-heart over tapas at that place downtown you’ve both been meaning to try, or between games at a nearby bowling alley. Being proactive about finances doesn’t have to be a drag.

Work as a team

The majority of households today are dual income. When it comes to finances, you and your significant other may behave more like trains on parallel tracks than financial partners. Joint accounts are one way to get on the same page.

Prefer to keep your incomes separate? Consider contributing to a joint savings account that can be used to pay for shared expenses or save toward a dream vacation. Or you may find that pooling your income in a joint checking account and receiving a monthly allowance is more your style.

There’s no single right way to approach financial management in marriage. Find a plan that works for you as a couple and keep the lines of communication open in case adjustments are needed down the road.

Play to your strengths

While it’s important for both members of a couple to have a role in joint finances, there are many ways to contribute. Maybe one partner excels at finding deals on household items or researching stocks while the other has an aptitude for preparing taxes and always paying bills on time.

Just stay open-minded about the division of responsibility. A source of conflict in your relationship may be that one or both of you is tasked with jobs that don’t suit your talents. Perhaps you started handling joint finances one way at the beginning of your relationship and you haven’t re-evaluated if it’s still the best approach.

Make a plan—and stick to it

It’s good to have a plan in any relationship where money or financial responsibility is being shared. Whether you’re married, living together or dating, consider writing down your short- and long-term goals and sharing them with your partner.

Prioritize these goals together and arm yourselves with tools and resources that can help you take steps toward achieving each one, whether the goal is paying off student loans, buying a new car, starting a business or retiring early. Here are a few resources that can help you answer questions like:

Gathering the motivation to have that initial conversation about money can be difficult, but once you get started and have a game plan, it can be a tremendous relief. “[Money] can be an overwhelming source of worry and stress,” a New York Times wellness guide reads. “As a result, couples who can focus on money problems and reduce their debt may discover that they have also solved most of their marital problems.”

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