Most people don’t marry for money but marriage is more than a romantic arrangement. Fewer partnerships would end in divorce if the people involved would think more objectively about their finances and how they will handle them together. You really should be working together as a team.
That means treating your marriage like a business:
- Have a plan. A successful business has a business plan that includes its goals for the future and how they will be achieved. Married partners should also agree on goals and craft a plan together.
- Have a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Have one person in charge of the day-to-day financial details such as paying the bills and monitoring accounts to stay on track. Usually one person is more comfortable with these duties and it reduces the chances of bills being unpaid or other important details slipping through the cracks because one of you thought the other was handling it.
- Review regularly. Public businesses give details of their financial situations quarterly and have a comprehensive annual report. It’s also important for couples to regularly review their finances together. Honesty about financial matters is crucial. Do you hide your purchases, have a secret bank account or neglect to tell your partner about a raise in pay?
You don’t have to have the exact same approach to money. Some people are spenders and some are savers and usually they attract each other. Our personalities, how we were raised and our life experiences shape how we think about and deal with money. You have to be willing to listen to each other and make compromises to find a system that works best for you both. Don’t assume that everything will simply fall into place.
Some couples maintain separate bank accounts and divide up the bills. Some open a joint chequing account for bills and have their own separate accounts, and some people merge everything together into both names. You need to figure out what works best for you.
Most couples don’t want to debate every $10 purchase. On the other hand you’ll want some say in a large purchase. You don’t want to be surprised by a Ferrari in the driveway when you get home from work.
Work out a budget together for how much to spend on groceries, clothes and household items. Decide on personal allowances. My husband will spend everything in his wallet regardless of the amount, so he gets a pittance for his allowance.
Will you contribute equally toward your expenses or proportionate with your incomes? (This, of course, assumes a two-income household.) It’s more efficient to make one person responsible for most money matters but the other partner should not be left in the dark. If something happens to your CFO, you’re going to need to step in and take over.
It’s important for married couples to review their finances together every few months with an overall review each year to prepare a net worth statement and budget for the following year.
Even if the non-CFO has absolutely no interest in financial matters, they at least need to know where to find important information such as bank accounts, passwords and insurance documents should something happen to their partner.
A workable plan can help head off a lot of money conflicts. The time you spend taking care of these issues is an important investment in your marriage.