Money Stress And Your Future Spouse
For the engaged couple, money stress is something often over looked. There are many exciting details to discuss as you move closer to joining your lives together. From selecting a honeymoon location, to naming your first pet, it’s all new and fresh. But before you both say “I do,” there is one more topic to discuss: money. Money and money stress is one topic that is too often swept under the rug as it elicits all sorts of emotions. From pride to shame, if attitudes, goals and habits are not dealt with properly, money can be a pile of kindling for all sorts of marital problems.
According to a 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association, at least 72 percent of adults reported feeling stressed about money some of the time, while 26 percent reported feeling stressed about finances most or all of the time. Whether it’s your first marriage, or third, choose to not be a statistic. Choose to not shackle your new relationship with that kind of stress. Instead, open the lines of communication and tackle these topics head on. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Exchange your thoughts and goals on these finance areas before you exchange your vows.
Salaries & Checking Accounts
A great place to start is simply disclosing how much you each make and what’s in your savings and checking account. While many couples would lay claim to good financial communication, those same couples often answer incorrectly when it comes to how much their spouse makes. By simply disclosing the balance of checking and savings accounts, as well as current debt and other financial obligations, it fosters openness and accountability. Discuss the possibilities of money stress, whether you’ll combine accounts, and if so, how you’ll share expenses and budget responsibilities. There’s not one right way to join or separate accounts, but avoiding the topic all together will never help you reach your goals. Even if one person does take the lead in monitoring the budget or accounts, it’s important that it’s not used as leverage in the relationship one way or another. Remember, you’re on the same team.
What financial goals do you have as a couple? Is it to put aside a certain amount in an emergency fund or save up for a down payment on a house? Maybe it’s a budget goal to save money while one (or both) of you are in school, or to pay down student loans. Whatever the goal may be, get it down on paper. Sharing the goals you each hold will reveal your priorities and help you move in the same direction. It also provides boundaries for your budget and something tangible to work toward, versus aimlessly stating that “you’re saving money.”
It’s also important to discuss work and home roles well before the wedding ceremony. Will both of you work full time, or one of you work part time? Will one of you work for a time before staying home? These decisions set the course of your relationship, and deserve more than one passing conversation. In fact, considering the stress of money, they may need to be revisited more than once during your marriage. Different seasons bring about different goals and needs, so don’t be afraid to address work and money concerns as the years go by. Don’t assume that you both are on the same page if you’ve never even broached the subject.
If giving to a local church or charity is a part of your financial plan, share it with your partner and discuss your motivations and convictions. Maybe you share the same convictions, or maybe you’re coming from different backgrounds. Regardless, you may learn something helpful about your partner that you didn’t expect. Discuss those giving expectations and make it a point to decide on future giving opportunities together.
As you move toward joining your life together, the most important thing you can do in regards to your finances (and relationship in general) is to communicate, remain upfront and honest, and check your assumptions at the door. Remember, concerning the stresses that money can bring, that you are on the same team. Make regular communication and discipline a habit and you’ll find that finances don’t have to be a constant trigger topic. Instead, you’ll find that both you and your partner can be empowered to steward your finances together, and reach those meaningful life goals.