So, to all the couples… let me first say that most financial problems in marriages come from surprises. Talk about everything and make sure you are in continuous communication.  Also, there is nothing wrong with one spouse having a low credit score, but there is something wrong if he or she is not willing to get help to improve it. Not knowing is not bad, but willful ignorance can be dangerous.

It is vital that we are able to work together in a relationship on EVERYTHING…this includes our finances.  When I was practicing financial planning, I would NEVER meet with one half of a couple without meeting with the other, so I would suggest you sharing this with your spouse.  Here are some basic tips that can help you implement a couples strategy for your household:

MAKE IT REGULAR

Agree to a regular meeting to discuss your finances. Some make it once per week, but most I worked with made it twice per month. Definitely don’t let a month go by where you don’t talk about your finances.  If at all possible, don’t meet at home, but go to a coffee shop or meeting place that helps you keep focus. Sometimes when we meet at home, we allow ourselves to get distracted from the task at hand. If it is too inconvenient to leave the house because of your children or other obligations, wake up early. However, I must remind you that if you can find a reason to do a million things outside of the house, you can make some time to take your partner out to talk about something as important as your household finances.

HAVE AN AGENDA

What will you discuss at your meeting? Be sure it is transparent, forthcoming, and organized. Discuss all sources of income, bill payments, overall budget adjustments, couple goals, individual goals, concerns, questions, and comments. Being able to be “financially naked” is critical to a relationship.

INDIVIDUAL and COUPLE GOALS

To reiterate, it is important you all realize you still have individual goals as well as couple goals.  Maybe you all want to take a trip, buy a home, purchase a second home, or start a college fund for your children.  However, you still need to address individual goals like retirement dates, going back to school to get an education, hobbies you want to take up, etc.  This is your time to LISTEN to the dreams and desires of your partner…be supportive.

CHECK YOUR BUDGET

If you are having trouble with meeting bills make sure you are checking your budget or creating a budget if you don’t have one.  Make sure you are using a style you are both comfortable with.  Do you want to use Mint.com, an excel spreadsheet, or a simple budget template with a calculator? You might want to consider using the envelope system.  When you get paid, you divide up cash money into various envelopes marked for things like food, clothing, shopping, etc. Some people also use the envelope method for larger items like rent, bills, and vacations.  The envelope is marked with the purpose and amount you could spend in any given month. When the envelope is empty, the spending has to stop.

SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT SYSTEM

How are you managing your money? However you manage your funds, make sure you have a discussion and agree to a system that works for the both of you. There are three ways to organize your finances:

  • Comingled – There is only one account where all monies are deposited into your own couple account.
  • Separate – You each have one account that you manage where your funds are deposited into your own separate accounts.
  • Mixture – He has his own account, she has her own account, and you have a couple account.

Make a list of those items to be considered separate.  Put a price tag on them to be sure you are spending the right amounts of funds and budgeting appropriately.  Don’t spend outside of your budget if you are operating in a surplus; don’t get anxiety if you are not able to meet your budget for that month. In a month of surplus, the additional funds go towards savings, and in months of a deficit, the shortcoming must be addressed during your couple meetings.

KNOW YOUR LANE

As a couple each of you has your own strengths and weaknesses. Know them and be honest about them. Who is the cheap one of the two of you? Who is the spender of the two of you? Which of you is the most organized? Once you have discussed your skill sets, then start the process of giving assignments.

  • Who pays the bills?
  • Who does the shopping?
  • Who keeps track of the budget?
  • Who is in charge ensuring your investment/retirement strategy is being implemented correctly? Do you both do it?
  • Who keeps the list of the financial mistakes you have made to be sure you don’t make those financial mistakes again? Bring this up at your regular meeting.

HAVE FUN!

Don’t make this serious, but make it a fun exercise! Make sure to do fun things is in your budget. Give high fives when you are a success at keeping in your budget. What’s the name of your couple team? If you can put daily energy into your job, you can put the same level of energy into your spouse. This is IMPORTANT!

Marriage and Money Part 1