Marriage & Money: What We Need is a Little More Talk

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I don't know about your family, but this time of year money is one hot topic in our family. Yes, it is because of gifts and extra spending that goes on during the holidays. It's also because we round the end of the year and reflect on what we've done financially this past year, as well as set goals for the year ahead.

 

I was recently discussing this with a friend and she mentioned that she and her husband rarely — if ever — have conversations about money. He's in charge of the money and if she wants or needs something she puts in a request. That's about the extent of what they discuss. She has no idea how much money they have or where it goes.

 

This was hard for me to wrap my head around because (well, mainly because I love control and not knowing about where my family's money was would make me nuts) in our home this is a frequent conversation. I realized though, as I talked to more and more spouses, that perhaps we are a minority. Conversations about money are viewed by many couples as uncomfortable, heated, emotional and even detrimental to their marriage.

 

Certified Financial Planner JJ Montanaro says, "Too often for couples that I meet I'm not as concerned about better conversations as I am just having conversations! Money conversations just aren't taking place, either because of a fast paced life or the "bury their head in the sand" mentality. "

 

"Money is one of the least-discussed subjects in a marriage", says Bonnie Eaker Weil, PhD, author of Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker. "Yet it's also the major reason for fights and divorce."

 

I'd like to encourage you to stop and think about the conversations you might want to have about money, or need to have about money. Try to start your conversations by taking away any judgment and offer your spouse a concrete way for you to work together towards financial happiness.

 

Below are some questions to get you started. Each includes a little more advice from JJ.

 

Who will be responsible for handling our budget/finances? Everybody is going to have their role, but part of the idea of having the conversations is that you both know what is going on and are vested in what does and doesn't happen.

 

Where does our money go? Having this conversation is the first step to getting a handle on your overall financial situation. Track everything for a month or two so you can see exactly where you're spending.

 

What are our spending styles? What do you do good that your spouse doesn't and vice/versa? What bothers you about how each other handle money? What impresses you?

 

What are our short/long term money goals? Write them down. Be specific. Create a timeline of progress you'd like to work towards.

 

Will we be able to afford to retire? Spend some time on online calculators and figure out what you'll need to live comfortably.

 

Will we be able to afford (or do we want to afford) our children's college? Determine how much you'll need if you do choose to pay for college, including any benefits you might be owed such as military GI Bill.