Divorce and Money
Finances and relationships are like oil and water — they don’t mix well.
Money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in North America. Although many factors contribute to this marital breakdown, it mainly derives from lack of communication. Simply put, most young couples don’t take the time to share their financial views with one another prior to tying the knot.
How do you bring up the “Money Talk”?
Talking about finances doesn’t have to be difficult. In truth, it can be quite liberating. By opening up that barrier of communication, young couples develop trust and maturity to move forward, confirming they are both ready to take the next step towards marriage.
Start by being honest in your communications. If you or your partner have trouble in this department, try talking about other things and work up to the financial discussion. Begin with agreeable goals and values, which are essential for engaged couples anyway, then discuss the budget needed to accomplish these goals.
Introducing your goals first establishes a shared motivation, where the talk of money naturally follows as a way to achieve those goals. Of course, money won’t grant all your wishes, but for the things a couple may want in life — a home, family or honeymoon — finances provide a means of getting there.
Time your Talk
The best time for any discussion is during a peaceful period of neutrality, when you are both calm and open to communicating. When one person shuts down, conversation comes to a halt. If you are being tuned out, be patient. Your partner may be dealing with other stress. Try finding another time when the topic is still fresh in their mind, but they are relaxed and willing to speak about it. You can try to break the ice by addressing your side of things. This will warm them up to the idea of speaking freely about their finances.
What should we discuss?
There are specific financial details you need to know about one another before your wedding day. Include the following financial issues in your discussion:
1. Be open about your salary.
This information is not only critical for planning a budget, but especially important if you decide to purchase a home or have a child in the future. Knowing the annual income between you and your partner will allow you to set realistic financial goals for your life together. After all, you will soon be a financial team.
2. Be willing to contribute equally or in accordance with your salary.
Most couples work on a 50/50 basis, or contribute according to their salary. This means they split the rent, groceries or divide bills among each other. Whichever your arrangement is, make sure you both agree to it. If you can’t split your finances equally, try to contribute in other ways. For instance, stay-at-home moms provide by managing the household or caring for the children. When responsibility falls largely on one partner, he or she often harbors resentment as a result.
3. Try to enter marriage debt free.
There is nothing worse than starting a union with a large amount of collective debt. A wedding may be important to you, but your well-being after that day should also be a consideration. Less debt for you and your partner means less stress and a happier, civilized union.
4. Discuss individual debt.
The average American owes approximately $47,000 on account of student loans or mortgage. Talk about this number and the plans you each have in place to pay it off over time. Try working together to devise a payment strategy.
5. In addition to income and debt, talk about credit score.
Your credit score will affect your wife or husband, whether you believe it or not. If you or your partner are known to spend money and forget to pay the credit card bill, you are both in for a financial apocalypse. Again, just be honest and admit your mistakes. Your significant other will eventually find out why you avoid the bank, don’t qualify for a loan or don’t have a credit card. Skip the secrets and tell your partner. Their instinct will be help you figure out a plan to become financially responsible.
6. Admit spending habits.
Shopping addiction? Gambling? Impulsive spender? These costs add up and have a way of revealing themselves over time. Share these habits with your partner and take steps to overcome them. More severe spending problems might require further counseling, so be aware this behavior isn’t always an overnight fix.
7. Discuss a prenuptial agreement.
Before you cringe, this is not a bad thing. A prenup is merely an insurance policy, similar to car insurance. It provides financial security in the event your marriage heads south. Now obviously, this is less likely to happen if you are honest in the beginning. A prenup covers monetary and emotional security, such as your assets, spousal support, inheritances and dependent children.
After discussing your financial history, there may be a sense of relief mixed with anxiety. In most cases, money problems are the cause of deeper emotional problems. Once you dig beneath the surface, you will see that your partner may have been struggling with low self esteem because he was laid off last summer and had to take a temporary position to get by. Or your fiancée resents your gambling habit because it takes time away from your relationship. If you sense larger issues at play, which can’t be resolved through constructive discussion, premarital counseling is always an option for couples to voice their concerns.
After you first speak about money, it will be easier to bring up the same topic again and devise an attainable plan to pursue your goals. Try to check in with each other regularly to ensure you are both on the same page. Most married couples will agree that regular, honest and effective communication is a pillar for successful marriage.
A relationship is defined by its communication. The way you speak about your finances, as well as other issues, with your loved one, will allow you to better enjoy life together. Dispelling any money faux pas before walking down the aisle will increase your compatibility after marriage and won’t have you wishing you had dealt with these issues beforehand.
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