All married couples have disagreements from time to time. It’s the nature of being in a long-term relationship. No matter how much you love your spouse, there will still be occasions when they drive you crazy – and vice versa, of course.
Our members sometimes come to us with questions about financial problems in marriage. They’re interested in knowing how to avoid financial disputes and arguments.
It’s important to think about the ways that marriage will affect your financial picture. Money is the number one cause of disagreements between married couples. With that in mind, here are five money problems in marriage – and some advice to help you resolve them.
#1: Different Financial Personalities
The first big financial problem that can affect marriages is when each partner has a different financial personality. By that, we mean they think about money differently.
A common division of personality might be that one partner is a spender – someone who likes to buy new things and doesn’t mind paying a high price for them – while the other partner is inherently a saver, preferring to seek bargains.
That’s an issue that can lead to big problems if it’s not addressed. The way to handle it is to talk about it openly and calmly. Each of you should express your concerns and work out a blended spending style that’s respectful of both your needs.
#2: Hidden Spending
On a related note, if couples don’t talk about spending and money management openly, there’s a risk that one partner may hide their spending from the other partner. If it’s not checked, it can turn into a problem and erode the trust between the two.
Having joint accounts makes it difficult for anybody to hide their spending. While it may not be easy to talk about spending habits, it’s important to do it and to make it clear that part of your responsibility as a couple is to be open and up front about spending. You can also create budgets to help you spend within agreed-upon limits.
If it’s still a problem, then the potential exists that the person with the spending problem needs outside assistance from a therapist or counselor.
#3: Hidden Debt
What happens if one spouse runs up their debts and doesn’t tell their partner about them? This is a problem that people can bring into a relationship if they don’t reveal they’ve got a significant amount of credit card debt. Or, it can arise after you get married if hidden spending turns into hidden debt.
If you have a spending problem and you run up a debt, you have a responsibility to tell your partner because it can affect them too. For example, if you have unpaid debt and the two of you want to buy a home, delinquencies on your credit card can prevent you from qualifying or ensure you get stuck with a high interest rate.
The solution is to talk about spending and debt without shame and to reveal any hidden debt to your partner immediately. Then, work out a debt reduction plan alone or with a financial planner. That way, you’ll be able to pay it off and improve your financial picture together.
#4: Financial Power Plays
When one spouse earns more money than the other, it can create financial inequality and lead to resentment – especially if it’s not something you talk about.
It’s not uncommon for one spouse to choose to stay at home after starting a family. The spouse who’s at home is working full-time at childcare but not earning any income for it. That can create tension.
To avoid this problem, have a conversation about what staying at home means for your relationship. Both partners should be on board. The same is true if one partner makes a lot more than the other. Divide expenses equitably and check in with one another regularly to tackle any problems as they arise.
#5: Money and Your Extended Families
One of the trickiest financial problems to navigate is when one spouse has a family member who’s in financial distress. It’s natural to want to help people you love but it’s undeniably stressful when the help is ongoing and the money is not going to be paid back.
As you might imagine, the solution is honesty and transparency in any financial transactions involving your family. It’s important for both partners to be on board. It may also be helpful to set boundaries on how much you’ll loan (or give) and how much you’re willing to let it affect your lives.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that in some cases, you may want to take an end run around giving money if you’ve got a family member who’s irresponsible and always seems to need help. You might be better off getting them a couple of appointments with a financial planner than throwing money after the problem.
Money can cause disagreements in marriage, but nearly all of the financial problems in marriage can be solved with honesty and clear communication. Secrecy and dishonesty won’t help and, in most cases, will just make the problem worse.