You’ve probably heard it said that money is the number one issue couples argue about. Did you know it can also significantly predict divorce? According to a recent study out of Utah State University, couples who argued over money once a week were 30% more likely to get divorced than those who argued over finances a few times a month.* In fact, disputing over money was a larger indicator than any other category examined; including sex, spending time together, in-laws, and chores.
With this in mind, it’s important to openly explore issues of money with your partner before even getting married. Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning. Take a close look at your upbringing and how it compares to that of your partner’s with regards to money. Were your parents major savers or spenders? Was debt commonplace or something avoided at all costs? Did they combine incomes or keep them separate? Most money behaviors are learned so it’s important to explore your pasts together and determine how they have shaped your views.
Continue your exploration into the past by discussing credit. It’s important to be honest with your partner about past financial mistakes. If you decide to pool your money together then one person’s debt becomes that of both individuals. It’s best not to have surprises in this area after saying “I do.” Do you have a plan to manage the debt? The sooner you discuss the better.
Next, take a look at the logistics of money management in a marriage. Who will handle paying the bills? Will you set financial goals together? What are those financial goals? How will you develop specific plans to save (for a home, children, vacations or other luxury items, retirement, etc)? Will every purchase be made after consultation with your partner or will you develop a specific dollar amount that deems it a “big ticket item” which requires consultation with your partner? What will that dollar amount be?
The truth is you won’t be able to predict every potential disagreement about money before you get married. The important thing is knowing how to communicate with your partner when those disagreements come up. So ten years from now when your step-daughter turns 16 and asks your spouse to buy her a car and he’s ready to sign on the dotted line while you’d prefer to make her work for it herself – you’ll want to know how to discuss your views in a way that won’t damage your marriage. Or when you discover that your partner’s desire to eat lunch out everyday is making a significant dent in the savings towards a down payment on a house – you’ll need to find a way to come together on the issue. Money will inevitably play a role in every marriage. Premarital counseling can help you to identify problem areas and give you the tools to communicate about them throughout the course of your marriage.
Check back later this week for our next topic in our premarital series: In-laws.