When the majority of couples would rather talk about intimacy issues rather than finances there’s a problem. You’ve heard the statistics of how many clashes over finances lead to couples separating or divorcing. It’s staggering.
There is more to consider as a couple besides who writes the checks: emotions, personality types, and what you were taught about money to name a few. Together you have to accept these factors and work together to build a solid financial foundation. Here are five steps that you and your partner can climb together to reach financial success.
Step 1: Come clean in the beginning. You both need to be open and honest about your current debts and where each stands financially. Has one of you ever filed bankruptcy? Do either of you have outstanding debt, or is there the possibility of there being debt you don’t know about? Have you reviewed your credit reports together? If these topics are brought up later rather than now it can only lead to resentment.
Step 2: Decide whether to have joint or separate accounts. If you have separate accounts and you both agree to contribute a certain amount to the monthly bills this can be difficult for the spouse that makes less money. If you have a joint account combining your money together may be more efficient for paying bills, but allow each of you an allowance to spend each week. And if only one person in the house works outside the home, do not hold this as leverage over who “controls” the finances.
Step 3: Set your goals. Where do you want to be financially 6 months, a year, and 5 years from now. Is your goal to set up a reserve of 6 –12 months of living expenses, take a vacation to Hawaii, or plan for children? Whatever they are they must be goals that are important to both of you, otherwise you will not be successful in saving and sacrificing to achieve your goals. Not being on the same page will only lead to a financial fallout.
Step 4: Designate a bill-payer only. This means you both have to be actively involved in how and when the bills are paid, but have only one of you write out the check or pay the bill online. If both of you are doing this you risk paying a bill twice, or if you think the other person has taken care of it and they have not, not paying it at all. As a couple you both must be aware at all times how much is in your savings, checking, and how much debt you have. No surprises!
Step 5: Communication is imperative. When one person in the relationship is in charge of the finances it easily happens that the other is left in the dark. Or it may be that the other person has no interest or desire to be involved in the monthly finances. However not communicating about your finances month to month can put unfair pressure on one partner who is trying to handle everything. It can be overwhelming if they are responsible for too much. And, if both of you are using a debit card for the same account, communication is essential. Your financial future is about both of you so you both need to work together towards success.
Morgan Gee is a Certified Credit Counselor with Chestnut Credit Counseling Services. Chestnut Credit Counseling Services is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.