Money fights and problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in North America today. Couples often struggle to handle their finances, leading to increased stress and anger. The good news is that you don’t have to end up becoming a statistic. There are ways that couples can manage money better.
Based on my experience as a financial coach, here are my seven ways for couples to work together on their financial troubles. They are certainly not easy. But these practices are necessary parts of a healthy financial dynamic in your marriage. The juice is worth the squeeze.
1. Communicate Openly to Prevent Money Arguments
One of the biggest hurdles is simply communicating effectively. Money fights and money problems are leading causes of divorce in America. It is absolutely critical that both spouses are willing to openly talk with each other about what they are experiencing.
One spouse may be very scared about the future, the other may not be concerned at all. If they cannot share what they are feeling, their decisions will not be aligned and the stress will compound.
When a couple does not sit down to honestly and thoroughly discuss what’s going on, the problems are just going to get worse. By coming together and identifying what it is they want as a couple for themselves and for their children (if applicable), the steps the couple needs to take start to become clearer.
Open and honest lines of communication can help couples prevent money arguments. Though each spouse will still have his or her own views on things, what is important is for both husband and wife to agree on a given course of action. By speaking freely and lovingly about what’s going on, fights can frequently be avoided.
And remember, a little bit of give can take away a lot of hurt and pain. Work with each other, have some grace, and create a safe place in your relationship to open up about your financial situation. As a result, you can manage money better because you are working together and are truly on the same page.
2. Have Joint Accounts to Manage Money Better Together
I teach my clients to be joint owners on all accounts. When spouses join together, they are not acting as a mere business venture. Rather, they are creating a new household and are sharing the most intimate aspects of life together.
Having separate accounts sometimes enables spouses to hide things from each other. It can even lead to financial infidelity if not properly guarded. By owning accounts jointly, there is greater transparency and accountability.
When spouses work together and know where all the pieces are, it helps both to plan more effectively and makes the decisions owned by both spouses rather than just one.
If one spouse has been highly irresponsible with money in the past, this can make the other very hesitant to give access to the money again. But that type of dynamic is not conducive to a powerful and effective financial plan. After all, this is a marriage, not a parent-child relationship.
There may be some work for both to do to rebuild trust. But trust and transparency are necessary components of a healthy marriage where parents manage money wisely.
3. Create Your Estate Plans
Your estate plan can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss. It’s rather unpleasant to think about how your assets will pass after you die and how to handle end-of-life care.
But the only alternative option is for others to make those decisions for you. That means your property is distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws. The General Assembly isn’t necessarily going to distribute your assets according to your wishes and values.
If you are incapacitated, there may even be litigation about what to do in terms of artificial life support. (Do you remember the Terry Schaivo case from the early 2000s?).
Your will or trust directs others on how you want your assets handled. The power of attorney and medical directive direct others to act on your behalf, in your best interests, in the event you are incapacitated.
Having an estate plan is an important part of managing money well. Connect with an estate planning attorney in your area to have these documents drafted according to your wishes.
4. Determine What Career Paths You Want to Take
For career planning, it is important to determine what you really want to be doing. There are lots of opportunities to serve others in the marketplace. If you can figure out what gets you excited and determine a way to make money doing that, you will have great satisfaction in your work.
Perhaps a couple wants to only have one spouse working outside the home and the other taking care of the household. Taking care of kids is a difficult job (and highly honorable!). A couple may want to take a fairly traditional route on this one and have mom primarily stay home with the kids while dad works as the breadwinner.
If this is the desire, there needs to be an intentional plan to make it happen. This will bring a greater sense of peace to your household as you both work to manage money better and have the lifestyle you both want.
Your desires may require some changes, maybe even moving to another town or state. But spouses have to talk these things through and determine where they want to be career-wise so they can take the steps needed to get there.
5. Create a Debt Freedom Plan to Manage Money Better
To effectively handle debt, both spouses need to be on the same page. There cannot be a situation where one spouse is willing to aggressively pay off debt but the other still wants to take on more debt. The couple will spin their wheels and only create aggravation and resentment.
A shared dream of debt freedom enables couples to make short-term sacrifices now so that they can have something better in the future. In terms of tackling debt, I recommend lining things up from smallest to largest balance and using the debt snowball method to power through them.
The debt avalanche and debt tsunami methods are also popular plans to give specific steps for you to take. Determine what is going to work best for you as a couple and attack the debt together.
I discuss each of these three plans in a separate article here. Being free from debt is a higher level of financial living. If you want to get to that level and manage money better, develop a plan and follow through.
6. Have Shared Savings Goals
To be effective at saving, have a specific purpose in mind. If the goal is merely saving for the sake of saving, it is easy to give up the habit when the going gets rough.
But if you both have a big goal or dream for your savings, it will be easier to stay with it and push through even when you don’t feel like it. This is what managing money better looks like in practice—doing it even when it’s hard and you’d rather do something convenient.
For example, you may want to replace your car soon but don’t want to have a car payment. That will require you to save up the money to pay cash for a car (which, yes, is possible).
Keeping that goal at the forefront of your mind will inform the decisions that each spouse makes. When both spouses are together on a goal and are each carrying out habits that are aimed in that direction, couples can double their effectiveness in saving and cut down on the time it will take to accomplish that goal.
7. Reach Out For Financial Help
If things are really stressful and nothing that you’ve done has worked so far, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Just as there are marriage counselors, there are financial counselors and financial coaches like myself who specialize in helping couples work together to overcome their problems.
I will help you communicate with each other, identify the root causes of your financial difficulties, and form a plan to get you to the places you want to be. There is nothing wrong with needing help.
And I’m here to meet you where you are at. Our conversations are a judgment-free zone. Resources are out there to help you overcome. As your financial coach, I will gladly help you as well. But it is important to be willing to reach out for help when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. There’s nothing wrong with needing help.
Final Thoughts on How to Manage Money Better
The principles of financial literacy are fairly simple in theory. But in practice, it can be difficult to put them into action. Personal finance is more than just numbers, and financial decisions are not always about money. We have our heart and soul in the equation, and we have to properly handle all aspects of our being in the process.
This is not a journey that you as a couple have to walk alone. Many others struggle with money and the friction it causes in their marriages. But you can have so much more. As your financial coach, I’m here to help you and your family achieve great things together and live life at higher levels than you thought possible.
Book your free Discovery Session today to see how I can help you become better at handling your money together. I look forward to meeting with you soon!