A new edition to your family brings unparalleled joy. But along with that comes additional responsibility.
If married couples can't agree on basic money principles, these issues can become a constant source of conflict. To help avoid money conflicts, consider these tips:
- Discuss your views on a wide range of money issues, paying particular attention to potential sources of conflict.
Make sure you understand each other's views about earning, spending, saving, investing, and borrowing. Does one of you like to save money, while the other prefers to spend it? Does one feel comfortable with high debt levels, while the other can't stand the thought of paying interest? Different money issues will be more important at one stage of your marriage than at another. Thus, you may find you have no money disagreements for years, only to be faced with an issue you can't agree on.
- Set basic monetary goals and develop a written budget.
If you're having financial issues with your partner, it can be helpful to step back and really think about what you are trying to accomplish with your money. Where do you want to be in 10, 20, or 30 years? What are your most important goals in life and how can you accomplish them? The process of defining goals and setting a budget can help resolve differing views about money matters, forcing couples to compromise and make joint decisions about how money will be spent. While that might seem like a painful process, addressing these issues now can help prevent future misunderstandings. It is often easier to discuss spending preferences on a theoretical basis than it is to argue about an actual purchase.
- Decide on joint or separate bank accounts.
Some couples prefer to pool all funds, while others feel uncomfortable losing control of their money. For couples with vastly different spending styles, separate accounts may reduce tension. A joint account can be used for shared expenses, with each spouse contributing a designated amount to the account. Any remaining funds are kept in individual accounts, for each spouse to spend as he/she desires.
- Develop credit in each spouse's name.
Each spouse should have separate credit cards to develop his/her own credit file. This can be especially important if one spouse dies or the couple divorces.
- Split financial responsibilities.
Decide who will handle financial tasks, such as paying bills, preparing tax returns, making investment decisions, etc. One person may be more suited for these tasks due to their background or time availability. However, the other spouse should not give up total control.
- Discuss financial matters periodically.
Set up a formal time, perhaps monthly, to go over financial matters. This keeps both spouses fully informed and provides a designated time to discuss spending or items of concern. You then won't fret about how to bring up financial topics or let finances interfere during other times.
Understanding each other's goals and viewpoints and communicating openly will help you avoid financial issues with your partner.