Communicating about money is one of the biggest challenges many couples face. Yet the problems can be severe when they don’t communicate. Many couples point to money problems as a cause of divorce. Since many of us have our financial records out to complete our taxes, it’s a great time to start the conversation.
Are you on the same page when it comes to finances? Are you the saver and your spouse is a free spender? Do you want to have the money to tour the world while your spouse needs only enough to buy a canoe and a tent?
Having a shared vision about your money is important to your relationship. However, most of us have difficulties even bringing up the subject. Money talk may be fraught with accusations and disagreements. Here are some ideas that may help you talk and agree when it comes to your family’s money.
Schedule a time to talk about finances. Many couples have one person who takes the lead in handling finances, but it is important for both to understand what the state of your finances are and what plans are made. Every month review income and expenses. Once a quarter review money goals and see if you are making progress. Once a year, check your progress and make changes to meet your long-term goals.
Understand how each other thinks about money. We’ve all heard that opposites attract. But if your money values are opposite, you are headed for a rocky road. Our money beliefs are shaped by the way we were raised, our family values concerning money, even our personality. Your spouse may come from a family where money was freely spent, while your family was primarily savers. You may not be able to change your basic philosophy about money, but trying to understand why your spouse reacts as he or she does may help you smooth some of the arguments over money differences and will help you create mutual solutions.
Plan money goals as a couple. Having an understanding of your money situation is important so you can set money goals. You should be in agreement about major life goals and how much you are saving to accomplish them.
Do both of you have a basic understanding of your family finances? Take a moment to level the playing field on money. Both of you should be aware of everything from the monthly budget to insurance to investments at any point in time. Create a folder that has account names and numbers, contact information, insurance policies and other financial information and let the other spouse know where it is.
In my family, for several years I’ve taken care of most of the financial issues. I realized that my husband probably didn’t even know where all my retirement accounts were. If something happened to me, it would take a long time to find everything and to sort it out. I’ve now made a master list of financial records and have taken the opportunity to go over everything with both my husband and one of my children. If there is an emergency, I’m not the only one with an understanding of our finances.
Money issues can divide couples or can help you moved toward a shared future. Take the time now to get on the same page when it comes to your family’s finances.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201