Posted on Monday 14 October 2013
One of the most neglected (and potentially heated) conversations for a married couple is one concerning money or financial planning. Usually, different visions for what the future will look like emerge and create tension as both spouses try to find common ground. Though a contentious subject, personal finance is a crucial one nonetheless, and a marriage would be well served by spouses having money conversations sooner rather than later in their journey together. Below are a few tips that should help that talk happen more smoothly.
One reason the money conversation is a difficult one is because of the ‘unknowns’ for which complete planning is impossible. Spouses should keep in mind that asking ‘what-if’ questions about their future could breed anxiety as either husband or wife becomes fearful of the potential adversity lying ahead. This anxiety should be dealt with gently as you and your spouse seek to bolster confidence in one another by reminding yourselves that you will face unpredictable circumstances together.
Once you have set the tone of the conversation, grab a pen and paper or open a new Excel spreadsheet and create an exhaustive list of everything you own that is of any value. Estimate each item’s monetary worth, including any checking, savings, CD, or IRA accounts, and then identify whose name each asset is associated with in terms of ownership (e.g. cars, bank accounts, life insurance). There may be specific reasons for maintaining separate ownership on certain assets, but it would be a tremendous help to know who contractually owns what. In the event of an emergency, either spouse should have, and know how to, access each asset in order to pay for things. By getting your asset plan on the table, you can remove some of the anxiety that comes with future uncertainties.
Necessary vs. Unnecessary Expenses
Probably the most contentious part of the money conversation for spouses, expenses have a way of diverting an otherwise healthy dialogue into a finger-pointing blame game. If you haven’t already found yourself in disagreement with your spouse over whether an expense should be considered necessary or unnecessary, rest assured that the day is nigh. One of the most helpful things you can do to avoid browbeating your spouse over the pack of gum he or she bought at the gas station is to decide upon and articulate a clearly stated financial goal. Sacrificing expenses becomes easier when you are sharing a common purpose, and can even build unity as you are encouraged to mimic your spouse each time he or she forgoes something. Cost-cutting ideas are born out of this common purpose, as well.
Tempering Your Tangents
While it is important to have the money conversation sooner than later, it is more important to pace the rate at which you have it, if you can help it. Financial discussions frequently produce tangents with no immediate (or satisfactory) ending points, which adds more tension to what can already be a frustrating activity. Instead of an all-at-once financial planning party, think about having shorter and more focused conversations and be willing to leave them open ended. The more your spouse sees that he or she can converse with you without developing a migraine (or a sense of foreboding), the better he or she will communicate with you on topics across the board.
The considerations above should help smooth the foundation for an encouraging money conversation with your spouse, and perhaps get the two of you excited about making plans together. Finances will without a doubt always be a hot-button issue in your marriage, but if and when the funds get tight, your confidence in one another, prior planning, and temperance will have a positive impact on your family in the long run, as well as your overall financial picture.
Patrick Russo writes for DepositAccounts.com, a website that strives to make it as easy as possible to find the best bank account by tracking current interest rates and other details for thousands of banks and credit unions. It also displays thousands of bank reviews submitted by other customers and provides financial health statistics for the more than 14,000 banks and credit unions it covers.