You’ve heard the statistics, and there is a good chance you and your partner, if you have one, might be on the wrong side of the data: According to Psychology Today, 7 out of 10 couples admit that personal finances are a major cause of stress in their relationships.
I can help you not fall victim to that sad stat. Whether you are newlyweds or getting ready to celebrate a silver wedding anniversary, there are some simple strategies you can integrate in your relationship to reduce, if not completely eliminate, the stress and conflict surrounding money issues. Let’s take a closer look at how.
To start, make sure you communicate. Create an emotional space that allows each of you an opportunity to talk about money issues. It is quite possible that you grew up in a world that approached money issues differently than the world your partner grew up in, and chances are you will never see eye to eye on the delicate dynamics of saving and spending money. That is to be expected, and that is OK. The big challenge is to move forward with this understanding, recognizing that although there will be differences, you still can create financial harmony.
Talk about your goals, and the financial requirements surrounding these aspirations. Your goals might include new homes, college education for children, travel destinations, hobbies, and target dates for retirement. The more you have a shared vision for your future, the more you are likely to be in sync when it comes to managing your financial resources.
Speaking of saving and investing, by far the easiest and most stress-free way to save is to create an automatic savings plan, one that is embraced by both partners. Whether this takes the form of a monthly payroll deduction in your work-sponsored retirement accounts, or an automatic monthly transfer from a checking account into a joint investment account, find a way to put your retirement savings on autopilot.
There is something very powerful about socking money away on a monthly basis. It offers your household the emotional freedom of knowing that you are living within your means, that you are in control of your financial destiny. On top of that, when you place those savings into a portfolio of low-cost index funds, it allows you and your partner to focus on life’s larger issues, including the financial decisions you make in your everyday life.
Ideally, the dollar amount you sock away each month should be the result of the financial plan the two of you have created that balances the competing forces of spending today and saving for tomorrow.
Now that you have the savings component down, it is time to create more clarity with how you spend your money. I always have been a big fan of establishing a system that tracks monthly expenses, maybe not down to the penny, but enough so that you have a general idea at the end of the year of approximately how much money you have spent, and what you have spent it on.
This is beneficial on several fronts. First, it allows an opportunity for critical review should you ever decide to increase your monthly savings amount. More importantly, it is an essential first step in creating an awareness of whether your household spending is aligned with the activities that offer you and your family the most fulfillment.
Finally, strive for transparency within your household finances. This doesn’t mean that you should never maintain separate checking accounts; in fact, having some separation of finances might be a smart solution to money conflict and can be a good thing, as long as there are no surprises like excessive spending on meaningless material items or unrevealed debt that pops up down the road.
Financial harmony is a goal worth striving for. It might just mean that you have to take the first step — start talking about it with your partner.