As Americans, we have all grown up with the fairy tale view of marriage: you fall deeply in love, have a beautiful wedding, and then live happily ever after. Unfortunately, marriage is more like running a business than like dancing and singing around Prince Charming’s castle. And many married couples find themselves surprised at how difficult it is to keep the financial aspects of marriage from hurting the romance.
There are some common mistakes that are very easy to make when you have romantic stars in your eyes. Make sure you don’t commit any of these five financial blunders, and it will be that much easier to live happily ever after with your sweetheart:
1. Assuming that you have to share everything financially. While it’s very important for married couples to treat their money as “our money,” many couples feel as though they have to share every last penny in order to prove that they really love each other. The problem with this plan is that it allows each spouse to know exactly how the other is spending money. Not only does this make it impossible for you to buy presents for each other, but it can also breed resentment when you simply don’t understand each other’s spending habits. Pool your resources as a married couple in a way that works for you, but also allow yourself a little financial independence. That way, a splurge on a mani-pedi or a video game does not have to become a fight.
2. Keeping financial secrets. The other side of the “share everything” coin is when one spouse keeps money secrets from the other. Whether you have credit card debt that you are not talking about, or a sudden windfall that you’re keeping to yourself, money secrets are a recipe for resentment and marital strife. Each spouse needs to know where the marriage stands financially. The conversation about something you have been keeping to yourself may be a difficult one, but ultimately, treating the marriage as a financial partnership will bring you closer together.
3. Not spelling out your goals. Everyone tends to fall into the same habits that they were raised with or that they made work when they were single. Unfortunately, that means that married couples sometimes go on financial autopilot without determining what they really want. Having a conversation with your spouse about where you want to be financially will help you both make better financial, career, and life decisions.
4. Enabling each other’s poor money choices. This is one of the toughest mistakes to break out of, especially if neither spouse is particularly good at impulse control. But it’s very important for you both to practice being the voice of reason. Yes, taking a two-week vacation to Europe may sound like a dream, especially after a tough year, but is it really going to bring you closer to your goals? Practice saying no to each other. If necessary, institute a rule where you have to discuss any financial purchases over a certain amount. It builds in a cushion of time so that your cooler heads can prevail.
5. Not planning ahead. Americans tend to be very poor at saving money, and lack of money in an emergency will certainly add to the stress of that situation. Plan ahead—both by making sure you have an emergency fund should the worst happen, but also by saving for your retirements. It’s very easy to assume that your life will continue to be the same for years to come, but it’s going to be better for you and your marriage if you plan for a time when you can’t count on your income.
The Bottom Line
Although discussions about money have a reputation for being a romance-killer, the opposite tends to be true. Couples who are on the same page financially feel more secure and loving. Sit down with your Prince or Princess Charming today and make sure your marriage is on a solid footing, both financially and romantically.
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