Managing money may cause conflict for many couples.  According to Sun Trust, 35% of couples say that finances cause the most stress in their relationship.  Twenty-two percent of couples that divorce, site money issues as the number one reason, according to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analyst.  Finances play a major role in how successful and happy your relationship will be. 

A recent survey from Money Magazine revealed: “that couples who trust their partner with finances felt more secure, argued less, and had more fulfilling sex lives.” It doesn’t have to be so stressful!

Here are 5 things you can do as a couple to get your finances on track:

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1) Communicate:  Financial alignment with your partner starts with better communication.  Your relationship will improve once you learn how to communicate and set boundaries.  Your childhood experiences can color how you handle and view money.  If you bicker about finances, try to investigate why your partner saves and spends the way he or she does.  You might want to start off with questions like: “What is your first childhood memory of money and how did you feel?”, “Did you get an allowance?” and “Did your parents agree or fight about money?”

About two-thirds of Americans say they shop without telling their partner.Why the secrecy? They don’t believe that the purchase is large enough to stimulate a discussion.Establishing a spending threshold can help alleviate financial arguments.The spending threshold will vary in amount amongst couples, on average the amount is $400 but will vary by generation.

I can recall one client who came from a household where money was tight, and now that she was earning a significant salary, wanted to enjoy the finer things in life and provide her children with material opportunities and experiences very different from her own. Her husband had come from a middle-class family where frugality was taught.  Understanding the stark differences between the two helped lessen the duration and frequency of money disagreements.

2) Define Roles: The person with the most interest, experience, and time should be responsible for the finances.  This is not to say that the other spouse should be excluded.  Having one central person manage the finances will ensure that all bills are paid timely.  To ensure both parties have a strong understanding of the numbers, monthly or quarterly meetings are recommended.

When Jim and Kelly got married, Kelly discovered that Jim was paying fees on everything including ATM fees, late fees, and payment processing fees.  Kelly was worried that Jim didn’t have a handle on his budget nor was he organized to effectively pay the bills on time.  Kelly assumed the role of paying and tracking the monthly bills and they have paid all bills timely and not paid any fees.  This has saved the couple hundreds of dollars per year.

3) Let Go of Financial Baggage: It is challenging to blend the finances when each person in the relationship has experience managing their money in a certain manner.  This can be further complicated if the couple is bringing financial baggage into the relationship.  When we have been in a relationship that didn’t work out, we can be more guarded when it comes to money.  Or oftentimes we will try and do things differently when it comes to dividing the martial finances, even if the previous system worked in the prior relationship.   Maintaining those prior biases in your new relationship or excluding your new spouse out of the finances can be self-sabotaging and can create more distrust and prevent the financial intimacy you need to work together.

4) Set Financial Goals: Couples who set goals make faster progress towards increasing their savings and investments.  It is important to set goals with deadlines and dollar amounts.  To achieve your goals, you must agree on what your goals are: buying a home, saving for retirement, saving for college, becoming debt free.  The best way to start with goal setting is for each individual to separately identify their top goals and develop a joint list based upon the top goals of each individual.  Many people are afraid of defining goals because they don’t believe they will achieve them.  However, the only way to prevent failure is to plan.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If we fail to plan, we will plan to fail!”

5) Get Help: If you can’t agree on money matters or find that you have not been able to reach your financial goals and dreams, you may need to enlist the help of a financial planner or accountant. A financial planner can help merge two different perspectives and philosophies about handling money. 

I can recall a couple who had been married over 10 years.  The money conversations were extremely tough and unproductive that they resulted in daily arguments.  There were tensions between saving and investing, spending, and about financing certain purchases.  I helped this couple create goals and establish separate accounts for each different goal.  I worked with them and created a budget so that they could automatically save for retirement, establish emergency savings, and investments.  They now have a spending plan (budget) that they are both committed to follow.  This made the process more objective and both individuals feel honored and respected.  The daily arguments disappeared overnight.

Carletta Beckwith CPA LLC is a firm that provides premiere income tax preparation, tax planning, and financial planning services. Carletta Beckwith is a licensed CPA and CFP® and shares her extensive industry knowledge to deliver superior customer service and personalized attention to her clients.  To learn more about the services she provides visit www.beckwithcpa.com or at info@beckwithcpa.com.

IRS Circular 230 disclosure: Any tax advice included in this written or electronic communication was not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by any governmental taxing authority or agency. 

Disclaimer: Nothing in this document should be relied on and you should seek professional advice if you are in need of tax information or advice.  This publication should not be a substitution for personal tax advice as every tax situation is different.  You should obtain personal tax advice from a Certified Public Accountant or other tax professional to address your specific tax needs.