For the last 12 years I have been the sounding board for several marriages. I didn’t set out to do this, but it has just kinda happened that way. Just last week I had three separate couples sit in my office and say something to the effect of “you didn’t know you were going to be our marriage therapist.” Yes, I did. I knew 10 minutes into our meeting. Hey, but that’s okay. How do you expect to have a great marriage unless you truly work at it? For many couples this simply means admitting that you need to work at it. My marriage is the most important thing in my life on earth, you better bet your ass that I work at it.
So it’s with this that I offer you my top 5 financial tips for staying married and (relatively) happy.
****Disclaimer: I’m not a marriage therapist, but I have spoken with thousands of married couples at their most vulnerable and trying moments. My advice in this post is based on those experiences.
1. Don’t punish your partner by spending money – When your spouse pisses you off, for whatever reason, don’t spend money to get even, prove a point, or make yourself feel better. This is unbelievably common. And it’s unbelievably counterproductive. Revenge-spending will widen the gap, not bridge it.
2. Don’t ever have a spontaneous money conversation – It is nearly impossible for a spontaneous money conversation to end well. Have something to say? Set a time 2 days out to talk about it. That way the other person can get their mind right. It reminds me of a story about a badger.
3. Don’t borrow money from your parents – If you are married, and your parents are still bailing you out, then you need to remove that option. No, don’t kill them. Just stop “allowing” them to help you. Because it really isn’t helping you. It’s hurting you. I know that I’m going to get several emails/comments telling me I’m wrong. As soon as you have spoken to thousands of couples about this, and you have seen the damage that comes with borrowing money from a parent, then come see me for a debate. I’m not saying it never works, but I am saying that it is rarely successful in the end for both parties involved.
4. Work hard to develop joint financial goals – Inevitably, one person in the relationship is going to be more financially ambitious. That’s okay. But leaving the other person out of the family goal-setting is a huge mistake. This can/will/does lead to resentment. Often times the person’s goals are similar to yours. It just takes some creative blending to make them a joint goal. God forbid you have to have a complex discussion. 🙂
5. Don’t have a secret account – Just don’t do it. Take every good reason that you can think of to have a secret account, multiply it by ten, and that’s how many bad reasons there are to have a secret account. I have had at least three client meetings abruptly end when a secret account was discovered. Watching it unfold, I even felt dirty, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.
Just know that marriage takes work. If you are unhappy with how you communicate with your spouse in regards to money, then you HAVE TO work at it. Doing nothing will yield you the same crappy results. If nothing else, send them the link to this post, and say “Honey, I want to work on this together. We owe it to each other.” And then start the rebuilding process by taking a look at your budget compared to my Ideal Household Budget.
I’d love to hear your best money and marriage tip. Leave a comment and tell me what works great for you.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.