Don’t let Financial Differences Lead to Divorce

Divorce

Financial differences rank among the leading causes of divorce among couples, both young and old. The statistics are alarming, but perhaps not surprising. How we handle money is not usually a topic of that comes up while we are dating. As a result most couples don’t discuss financial compatibility before saying “I do”. When the honeymoon is over, though, and the bills start rolling in, couples often experience a reality check. While love is grand, it can’t pay the bills so it may not take long before fights erupt over different money habits.

Part of the problem is that it is simply uncomfortable to talk about money. Whether we like it or not, we tend to tie our own feelings of self-worth to money matters. It’s not uncommon to see how much money we make as a direct reflection of how much we are contributing to the relationship. These feelings can become further complicated if there have been financial missteps along the way. While avoiding conversations about money can allow us live in a blissful state of denial for a while, the long-term consequences can be life-altering.

The good news is that it is never too late to make meaningful changes and save a marriage that is threatened by financial discord.

According to financial planners who work with couples, money conflicts fall under five main categories:

  • Differences in spending and saving habits
  • Disagreements about who should control the money
  • Differences in priorities
  • Dishonesty about debt and habits
  • Differences in risk profiles

Whether you are experiencing frustration around one of these issues or all five, there are ways to build better financial health as a couple and avoid relationship problems.

Effective Communication Leads to Greater Financial Success

Effective communication can make a world of difference when it comes to financial matters. Establishing trust, which is cultivated through honest communication, is key. Trust is built when each partner commits to openly expressing their feelings about money and listening to what the other partner has to say. This includes being willing to reveal financial failures, knowing that your partner will be forgiving and withhold judgment.

Be Willing to Compromise

Although it is easier said than done, another key to resolving money issues is compromise. The first step is for both partners to sit down and agree on a common set of financial goals and what steps they will take to meet those mutual goals. Establishing a family budget – and committing to it – is critical. That budget should include some freedom for spending on things that are important to both partners, regardless of who is earning more money.

Be Patient

As you begin the process of rehabilitating your financial health and establishing clear lines of communication with your partner, remember to be patient. Keep in mind that spending habits are deeply ingrained in each of us. Both you and your partner have been influenced by your parents’ habits and your approach to money has been formed over a lifetime of experiences.

Enlist the Help of a Financial Planner

Whether you need help mediating tough conversations or you want expert advice on how to establish a budget that will help you meet your financial goals, don’t try to go it alone. Work with a financial advisor who can offer helpful insights and steer you in the right direction. With the right help, you can get back on track financially and strengthen your relationship. If you are to the point where money issues are creating such a strain on your marriage that you are considering divorce, outside intervention from an experienced financial advisor can be critically important in finding solutions that work for both of you.

Avoid Conflict

Often couples will argue about whether they should give or loan money to family members. While each case is different, and very personal, it is generally a good idea to try to avoid making these kinds of loans. Once that first loan is made, you have set a precedent and you are more than likely to receive follow-up request for additional money. While it can be difficult to say no to friends and family, it is always in your financial best interest to avoid these types of transactions.

A Happy Ending

Even in the best marriages, there are bound to be differences over finances, but those disagreements don’t have to drive a wedge between you and your partner, or worse, lead to divorce. If you actively work to establish trust through open and honest communication and recognize when it is time to seek outside help from a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor, you are taking important steps to letting your financial life be a solid foundation for your marriage – and not the wall between you.

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This post originally appeared on Investopedia.
The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions, please Contact Us.

10 Important Things To Discuss Before Marriage

7thingsbeforemarriage

10 Things to Discuss Before the Big Day

You are excited, in love, and planning the wedding of your dreams. Probably the only money questions on your mind are the down payments for the caterers and the florists!

Yet – whether your wedding reflects a minimalist sensibility or is a no-holds-barred extravaganza – it’s better to have a good understanding of each other’s finances before the “I Do’s”. This is a time when procrastination could cost you a bundle, even if neither one of you currently have a lot of assets.

Getting married is more than just substituting the word “ours” for “yours” and “mine”.  It’s combining your finances, histories, dreams, aspirations, possessions – even your music – and making all of that “ours too. Since a significant part of those dreams and aspirations involve money, having multiple financial conversations before marriage (or right after, if you’re newlyweds!) can help you start married life on a firmer footing, with regard to financial goals.

Here are a few conversations that will get your marriage off to a smoother financial start:

1) Views on money. How we feel about money is often very emotional and very personal. Our family’s views on money can have a big impact on the way we see finances. In some families money may not be talked about. In others, one partner may hide money or spending from the other. While we might not consciously have these same behaviors, our upbringing will have an impact on how we feel about money and how we save, spend, and budget.

The best way to address unconscious – and sometimes conflicting – money behaviors is to start by recognizing how you each feel about money. Then you can take a practical approach and implement the best strategies from the past and incorporate them into your new relationship. This will also give you a chance to address any not-so-beneficial attitudes and behaviors and work to consciously change them.

2) Spending/Saving Habits. Chances are the two of you don’t spend and save money the same way. The interesting thing about spending and saving habits is that they give insight into priorities, both financial and otherwise because we tend to spend money on things we feel are most important and scoff at spending on things we see as unimportant.  Some people value saving more than anything and could be considered “tightwads”. Other people have a “live for today” attitude and spend whatever they have available, saving nothing or little for later. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle.

Not agreeing on spending priorities can lead to serious conflicts down the line. While there is no right and wrong answer regarding priorities and habits, it’s valuable to know and understand each other’s habits earlier rather than later.

3) Divvying Up the Bills. This is an important conversation about how you will manage your money together. Will you have separate or joint accounts? Who will be responsible for paying the bills and investing for long term goals? A realistic understanding both of your current incomes and current debts is important so you can create a realistic budget based on your combined income and expenses.

4) Credit History. No one likes to talk about credit ratings because they highlight past mistakes and spending habits. Yet it’s essential to know and discuss your credit histories. This can help you talk about past money mistakes, current debt loads, and how to address any issues that are lurking. Having this conversation now will also help if you’re planning to borrow money for a large purchase, such as a home or car; credit history will effect how much you’ll pay in interest for loans, as well as how much it will cost for things like insurance. Many companies even pull credit for potential job applicants. When it comes to credit, it’s best not to have surprises down the road, so have the conversation now.

5) Risk Tolerance and Financial Goals. Couples often have very strong – and differing – feelings about risk and money that are deeply rooted in past experiences.  Your family may have gone through periods of unemployment, for instance, or  you may have grown up taking financial security for granted. One of your parents may have owned a business and you saw it go bankrupt,  so you might be very conservative with your money and not want to take unnecessary chances. Or perhaps they invested in a business that was a huge success.

Everyone brings a different level of comfort when it comes to risk tolerance and it’s important to understand your partner’s because it has an impact on spending and savings habits – everything from where you invest to how much money you want to set aside. Money provides a level of security that can be very powerful and risk tolerance is directly linked to that feeling of security.

6) Ongoing Financial Obligations. If this is a second marriage, are there child support or alimony payments that need to be considered in the budget process? If so, how much and how long will the obligations need to be fulfilled. Caring for elderly parents might also be a long term expense you will be facing as a couple.

7) Net Worth. When it’s a first marriage, often neither partner has much in the way of assets, but if one partner has more than the other, are you going to want a pre-nuptial agreement? When discussing net worth it is valuable to discuss not only current net worth, but also aspiring net worth. What household income level are you both hoping to achieve. Will reaching those aspirations include additional education? Will it mean switching jobs several times early in your career? Will it mean working 80 hours a week for decades? As a couple, understanding financial expectations and future net worth aspirations will help you plan a life together that will meet both of your needs, financially and emotionally.

8) Family Plans. The family size you hope to have will also have a big impact on your financial needs. Children, as wonderful as they are, are very expensive to raise. Do you both want to have children and, if so, one child or several children? Discussions about how the children will be raised and educated are also valuable from a financial perspective. Will one of you stay home to raise the children? Will you pay for day care? How far apart should the children be? Each of these answers will have a significant financial impact to the family budget.

9) Combining Physical and Financial Assets. Particularly with couples getting married later, both partners will have accumulated possessions that now need to be combined. This can be as simple as which sofa and bedroom set to keep, or more complicated when multiple homes, retirement accounts, and other investments are brought into the mix. Discussing whether property, accounts, and debt should be left in individual names or held jointly is also an important conversation to have.

10) Wills, Trusts, and Life Insurance. When you’re getting married, you don’t really want to think about death. Yet wills, trusts, and life insurance need to be updated soon after you say, “I Do.” This is true especially if you have assets or children. The process of obtaining a will or trust is fairly straightforward; it’s the discussions that lead up to it that provide the most value. Both of you should have a good understanding of what you have and what you want to happen, should the unthinkable occur.

Financial advisors can be a real asset, when it comes to pre-marital financial discussions. They can help you determine when it is best to hold assets jointly or separately. Assistance with budgeting and planning for long term goals will help you create a strong financial plan. Advisors can also guide you in building a strategy for reaching financial milestones.

So, if you’re getting married (or just got married), congratulations! And while these discussions may not be the most romantic ones you’re having, they do have the ability to bring you closer together. Planning together and sharing your dreams will give you better insight into the mind and heart of the person you’ve fallen in love with and allow you to become stronger partners when it comes to reaching your goals as a couple, emotional as well as financial.

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The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.