By Bennett Whitlock | Whitlock Wealth Management
When couples tie the knot, they make a commitment to stand by one another, for richer or poorer. Despite this earnest vow, money is a common source of marital strife at all economic levels. Money is so central to our daily lives that conflicting financial beliefs and behaviors can spill into all areas of married life.
Communication is key to avoiding surprises, promoting cooperation and creating harmony in your new financial life together. Before reciting your marriage vows, take time to understand the state of your pending economic union. A joint household will fare better when both of you are open and honest about all of your money matters. As you learn more about yourself and one another, you’ll be better able to manage your own expectations and respect the choices of your new spouse.
Here are three money topics that deserve discussion before you walk down the aisle:
What does money mean to you?
This is a big, broad question, but it can uncover what’s at the heart of many financial disagreements. Examining closely held beliefs about money is a healthy part of personal development. You can assess your financial values by answering smaller questions like these: Do you equate money with success? Is your bank account a measure of your mood or self-worth? Do you prefer to spend or save? Is it ever okay to borrow money? What’s your philosophy about giving?
Explore where your thinking differs and try to find common ground. The value you each attach to money will affect how much time you dedicate to earning, how much you set aside for the future and how you approach spending. In a similar way, what you believe about gender roles and responsibilities can influence your financial behavior and what you expect from your partner.
Different personal beliefs about money can cause rifts between couples because they are so deeply ingrained and personal. It may help to realize how your earliest experiences shaped your money mindset. For example, if you grew up poor, you may be anxious about even small expenditures. Acknowledging this concern can diminish its power to overtake common sense. Likewise, if you grew up in a wealthy home, you may spend without a care in the world, even when your bank account does not match your lifestyle. Recognizing this trait in yourself might compel you to adopt a more disciplined approach to spending. Try to be more self-aware of how your attitudes and beliefs affect your actions and remain open to fresh perspectives that foster rewarding financial behaviors.
What’s your financial history?
Income, savings, debt and credit rating? It’s important to know what the other person will bring to the marriage. Both parties should fully disclose any obligations that will affect your household’s creditworthiness or interfere with your financial goals. Even modest debt or a substandard credit rating can affect your ability to purchase a house or obtain a car loan.
The revelation of adverse credit or a ballooning college loan can be a deal breaker for some, but more commonly it provides the opportunity for couples to work together to correct past mistakes and move forward. By rolling up your sleeves and tackling debt together, you can start your married life with a renewed commitment to financial responsibility.
What are your financial hopes and dreams?
Entering into a lifelong relationship is exciting, but also a little frightening. Soon you will be accountable not only to yourself, but also to your spouse. Do you both want the same kind of future? Big questions such as whether to have a family, where to live and the type of work you pursue will affect your financial goals. Smaller questions about things such as how much you spend on your hobbies or what kinds of vacations you take can reveal gaps. Again, ongoing conversations about your financial aspirations will go a long way toward helping you achieve your goals. While it’s important to have small and large goals, it’s equally important to be flexible. Strong relationships endure when people are able to compromise and adapt to changing circumstances.
Remain committed to financial honesty. Keep the lines of communication open to prevent financial matters from derailing your marriage. Sit down often to review income, savings and spending, and make time to talk about your financial hopes and dreams. Meet with a financial advisor who can help you create a plan for your financial future. Annual or more frequent meetings with your advisor can help you stay on track over the years as your needs and goals evolve. The more collaborative and mindful you can be about your money, the stronger your relationship will be.
Bennett Whitlock, CRPC ®, is a private wealth advisor and managing director with Whitlock Wealth Management, a franchise of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Learn more at WhitclokWealth.com or call 703-492-7732.