“Money is almost as taboo a subject as sex and arguably, just as important in a relationship”

One of the most important principles that needs to reside within a marriage is communication. When I served a mission for my church from 2014-2016, we had a survey approach that we often used. The survey would help us determine which stage of life people were currently at. The last question on this survey approach was, “What is one thing that would make you happier?” The most common answers we would receive from people were always related to being more financially stable or having better unity in their relationship when it comes to finances. This question made it clear that finances are a struggle for many people.

Everyone is unique. We were all raised by different parents in different places and with unique circumstances. If you put two people together from two very different backgrounds, then you can expect there to be some differing opinions, even after they have been married for many years. Remember that principle I mentioned at the beginning? Communication. Yes, that one! Communication will help you and your spouse to be on the same page. Will it be difficult? Sure, but it WILL be worth it.

In 2018, Ramsey Solutions, a leading company in financial education, conducted a study of more than 1,000 U.S. adults to better understand financial behaviors and attitudes, particularly within couples. There were some interesting findings:

  1. Nearly two-thirds of all marriages start off in debt. Forty-three percent of couples married more than 25 years started off in debt, while 86 percent of couples married five years or less started off in the red — twice the number of their older counterparts.
  2. One-third of people who say they argued with their spouse about money say they hid a purchase from their spouse because they knew their partner would not approve.
  3. Ninety-four percent of respondents who say they have a “great” marriage discuss their money dreams with their spouse, compared to only 45 percent of respondents who say their marriage is “okay” or “in crisis.” Eighty-seven percent of respondents who say their marriage is “great” also say they and their spouse work together to set long-term goals for their money.
  4. Sixty-three percent of those with $50,000 or more in debt feel anxious about talking about their personal finances. Almost half (47 percent) of respondents with consumer debt say their level of debt creates stress and anxiety.
  5. The larger a couple’s debt, the more likely they were to say money is one of the top issues they fight about. Almost half of couples with $50,000 or more in consumer debt say money is a top reason for arguments.

Some basics of successful communication are expressing your feelings, setting goals, and establishing expectations. I want to touch on a few of these that are very important when it comes to finances. How much money do you want to make? How much money do you want to spend? How much money do you want to save? Will you have a joint bank account? Should you get a financial advisor? Should you have your taxes done professionally? *wink wink* Expressing feelings is also important. For example, I love to give gifts to my husband on “gift giving” holidays, and I love to receive gifts from him on those “gift giving” holidays. He couldn’t care less, but because I’ve expressed my feelings regarding the matter, he now understands why it is important to me. Lastly, establishing expectations will help you to know what you expect of one another when it comes to your finances.

As mentioned in the first line, “money is almost as taboo a subject as sex and arguably, just as important in a relationship”. Being open and honest about your debt or how much money you make can be awkward and uncomfortable but do you want to be one of the people that are “okay” or “in crisis” as found in the study, or would you prefer to be great? Yeah, we all know the answer to that question. To put the solution bluntly, go and “get financially naked” with your spouse as SOON as possible.

This can be very intimidating and overwhelming to do. Communicating and opening up is hard but starting is usually the hardest step. You may have heard the phrase “getting financially naked” from the book written by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar. We thought this was a great analogy for a few key points we want to discuss today. Below are some good points to cover with your spouse or significant other if you want to “get financially naked”.

The Basics: Do you want joint or separate accounts? In Texas, we are in a community property state, but how will you actually handle your finances. “Getting financially naked” doesn’t mean you need to immediately open a joint bank account and share a Facebook account, but it can… If that is what you want. Even if you are not married but you are in a long-term relationship, just setting this foundation can be extremely helpful. You may decide to maintain separate bank accounts until you marry and then combine.

Goals: I’m sure you have financial goals. I’m just as sure that your partner does as well. Are these goals the same? Maybe, maybe not. Like I said earlier, everyone is different, and this isn’t a bad thing. But who will pay for what bills? Do you want to save for retirement or pay off debt? Do you want to pay for your children’s education or buy a new boat? Being on the same page for these types of decisions is crucial. You’ve probably heard that money is the #1 reason why couples file for divorce in America. This is part of it.

Budget: What is coming in and going out? There are varying degrees of budgets that can be used. You may just have a general idea of where your expenses lie, or you may watch everything coming in and going out to the penny. There are also different apps that can help manage this aspect.

Debt, Savings and Investments: How much debt do you have? How are you going to handle it? Do you have credit cards, car loans, or student loans? What does your retirement plan look like? This includes your IRA, 529 college for kids, etc. Everyone has a different risk tolerance, and this translates directly into the amount of debt someone feels comfortable with and how to plan for retirement.

Insurance Needs: This also ties into the risk tolerance of each individual. My spouse has a lower risk tolerance than I do, but we have agreed on what coverage we do or do not need both individually and as a family. Auto, Home, Life and Health Insurance are the four basics that I would start with.

Money decisions are made every day. Even a $5 trip through the drive through can be a big deal to you or your spouse. Don’t let a simple conversation get in the way of your relationship. Just because you are different, doesn’t mean one person is wrong and the other is right. You are your spouse’s teammate, friend, and partner. Act like it! Every player on the field is important and has a different viewpoint. Money and relationships are the same way. In order to understand those viewpoints, go “get financially naked”.

Courtney Lewis and Clark Boyd

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