Getting married is as much a financial decision as a personal and romantic one. One of the most important things that you can do to help make a success of your marriage is to ensure you and your spouse see eye-to-eye when it comes to financial choices. If you don’t make a decent attempt here, you will likely experience friction dealing with money matters.There will be fights, times when you lie about money, and a serious lack of trust, overall.
If you’ve just married, it’s a great time to begin the process of compromise — talking about money, and coming to an agreement on how to move forward. Both spouses tend to be positive at this time, and eager to both cooperate and extend compromise.
First, start with total disclosure
You don’t want to start a marriage off with foggy ideas of where you stand financially as a couple. If there is major financial information that you’ve kept secret — large debts, financial commitments, bankruptcies, inheritances or anything else — you should disclose it. Disclosure at this stage beats having the truth come out a couple of years down the line when you need to apply for a mortgage together. To be found to have been lying can do serious damage to trust in a marriage.
If there are problems from the past, address them
If you do discover that there are financial problems from the past to be dealt with, you should work on a plan. If one of you has many credit cards with large sums owed, for example, you can consolidate your cards, and budget so that you pay the money off. It’s only once problems from the past are overcome that you truly move forward.
Create goals and budgets
Considering that money problems are often at the root of dysfunction in many marriages, talking about your future financial goals is one of the most important things that you can do to keep your marriage strong.
Your financial goals would be knowing when to buy a house or a car, knowing how many children you will have, how much money you will have to send them to college, what kind of business ambitions you have, the age that you would like to retire, how much you would like to have set aside for an emergency and so on. Once you do know what your hopes and dreams are for the future, it’s important to develop realistic plans for how much money is likely to come in and draw up careful budgets for how you will reach your stated financial goals.
Unless you have great experience with money, your initial budgets and plans will not be detailed enough. Once you take a couple of years of tweaking details to get your budgets right, you’ll be ready for the next step – drawing up a plan to actually achieve these goals.
Planning together for success
Planning with all the good intent in the world is rarely enough to produce results. Drawing up a second plan to put the original plan into effect, is what works. Drawing up such a plan, you will likely come up against serious odds. It’s easy to plan to always pay off your credit cards and never carry a balance; it’s much harder to decide to actually make the sacrifices needed to actually plan into action.
It can take years of working together as a couple to actually put a well-intentioned financial plan to action. It takes building an appetite for sacrifice. It’s completely possible, however, if you’re willing to step forward together as partners and help each other when you’re weak. This is the kind of thing that makes marriage so great.