Money and marriage go together like a horse and carriage—except that’s not exactly how the saying goes. In fact, it might be just the opposite.
Finances have long been considered one of the most frequent topics of argument in any relationship, and money problems in marriage may be one of the most common reasons couples fight. Unfortunately, unresolved fights over money can lead couples into counseling or possibly even divorce.
If you never address the problems at the heart of your marital finances, then they could just fester and grow.
Of course, this doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to talk about money and marriage, and to make the conversation productive, not a fight.
While a lot of the arguments may boil down to communication and clear goal-setting, which we’ll get to later, there are some common money problems that could arise in almost all marriages. Here are a few tips on dealing with them.
Carrying debt makes a couple more likely to fight over money, and the fights they have are typically about that debt. And more marriages than ever now begin with money owed—seven out of 10 couples start out in debt.
While a lot of that is largely the high amount of student loans young adults are carrying with them, nearly one-third have wedding-related debt.
The average cost of a wedding is $38,700 (though you certainly don’t have to spend anywhere near that). Regardless, before you take on credit card debt to pay fo flowers or photographers, make sure your partner and you are on the same page, and explore your funding options.
Some debt can’t be avoided and may even be a choice that pays off down the line—student loans, mortgages, and, potentially, personal loans to cover emergencies or home improvements.
But taking on additional debt, especially from high-interest credit cards, can put extra stress on marital finances as you try to balance paying all the bills and planning for the future.
Another study from Fidelity, found that of those who brought debt into a relationship, 40% admitted it had a negative impact on the relationship.
If you talk through your financial stressors and come up with a plan to pay off debt, you might also find it makes sense to refinance credit card debt and save yourself some money and some stress.
Earning Differences & Control
Though gender stereotypes in marriages are changing, it’s still fairly common for one person to make more money than the other. When it comes to money and marriage, that may lead to feelings of resentment or insecurity—especially if one person feels they’re working hard to pay bills and the other gets to pursue their passions or chase dreams that don’t pay as much.
Or if one person feels like their work at home is going unpaid and unappreciated. Earning differences may also lead to one person feeling like they have more say in marital finances than the other.
While control issues are technically different than money problems in your marriage, questions around who controls the purse strings could be tied up in earning differences and who feels more responsible for the marital finances.
While it might make sense for you as a couple to set allowances or check in on your individual spending, trying to be overly controlling of the other person’s spending can be problematic and may lead to fights.
It may make sense for one person to be responsible for the bills and bank accounts, but both of you should have all the passwords and ability to access that information—if you have joint accounts and share finances. (Having entirely separate finances is also an option, but one you should both agree on.)
It is recommended to set clear expectations and talk about your goals, so you don’t build up resentments either for unpaid work at home or for making more at the office. Both partners should have a say in how money gets spent, but you can split up the roles and responsibilities; or you can split up the discretionary budget if that works for you.
Because one person may take on more unpaid work around the house, one idea is to allocate an amount of money each of those jobs “costs” so you can better appreciate what each of you is contributing to the household.
For example, in your household budget you could assign a value to doing the grocery shopping and making dinner—though the same person doesn’t have to do the same chores every time.
Raising Kids & Family Planning
When it comes to money outlays in marriage, kids can be one of the most expensive items. Childcare costs, medical bills, daycare, education—the expenses add up quickly in your marital finances. Medical costs for having a baby can fall anywhere between $5,000 and $14,000.
Yes, your medical insurance may cover many of the hospital bills, but it doesn’t cover things like preparing your house for the baby or the initial expenses of your newborn. And then you have to pay for everything that comes after.
The USDA has been tracking the cost of raising kids for decades. And, depending on where you live, the department’s most recent study, completed in 2017, determined that a family will spend about $12,980 per kid annually in a middle-income, two-parent/two-child household.
That adds up to $233,610 for food, shelter, and other necessities until the kid is 17 years old. That doesn’t even include the cost of college.
If you factor in college, then that can add another $30,000-$200,000 to your expenses, depending on how much you plan to pay towards your child’s tuition and where they plan to go.
It’s easy to see why these expenses can put a stress on family budgets and marital finances. On the other end of the life cycle, you might also need to move an aging parent into your household or pay for their care.
And if you’re one of the growing number of families who have both kids and parents they’re responsible for, then that can add up to a big expense in your budget.
Goals and Planning
When it comes to money problems in marriage, this is the big one: setting goals that are in sync. You don’t need to have the exact same goals, but planning properly for the future together can help iron out financial challenges that come your way.
SoFi recently teamed up with wedding planning experts from Zola to survey more than 1,000 newlyweds and found that 84% felt extremely comfortable talking about finances with their partners.
For many couples, there are a few reasons why it’s so hard to talk about marital finances, but one of the biggest issues might be differences in your underlying belief systems.
It is said that we inherit attitudes about money and spending from our parents and families, and that can affect how we view money in our marriages—whether we want to scrimp and save, or spend big.
There are probably lots of things you and your partner are totally different on and that’s good—but it’s also good to communicate those differences and set joint (and individual financial goals).
How to Get Help for Your Money and Marriage
Talking about money and marriage doesn’t have to be a fight. Here are some tips on how to talk about money and goal planning: First, take some time for yourself to figure out what’s important to you financially and what your financial goals are.
Then come together to schedule regular weekly or monthly meetings with a set timeframe to go over your marital finances. Try not to be resentful or judgmental, because open honest communication is key to clear setting of goals and planning.
To set goals and spending targets, you might want to start by figuring out what your joint net worth is and track your current cash flow or spending. Once you know what you’re spending on (and if that’s what you want to be spending on), then you can work out a flexible budget, with short-term and long-term goals.
Planning ahead helps you both agree on how much needs to be set aside for retirement or a down payment on a house and how much you each can allocate to spend as you individually see fit.
Many couples use professional financial planners or even therapists to help them sort out the money problems in their marriage. That’s always an option.
Another option is to first use budgeting and goal planning tools to see where you’re both on the same page and where your expectations diverge.
If you are looking for an account where you can track your spending and share with your spouse, check out SoFi Money®. SoFi Money is a cash management account where you can save and spend in one place.
Plus, SoFi Money offers joint accounts so you can share your account with your spouse and both have equal access and control of the account.
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