Having Money Problems in Your Marriage? Here’s How to Avoid Them

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Money and marriage can, unfortunately, often go together like other infamous pairings. Think mongoose-snake, or Charlie Sheen and self-control. It is also often true that opposites attract – and if you found your true love in a partner who is very different than you, most likely your views on finances may not be exactly like your partner’s.

Handled without care, money problems can end an otherwise solid marriage—and often it does! Usually it’s because one spouse committed financial infidelity —the term marriage counselors (and divorce attorneys) use for spouses who hide money, hide debt, and spend money without the other spouse knowing or approving. It’s a nasty habit. A study from the National Endowment For Financial Education find that three in ten U.S. spouses financially cheat on their partners or have “lied about finances, debt [and] money earned.” Of course, the good news is that seven of 10 spouses don’t, and that’s worth building on.

So, how can married couples leverage their finances and their financial problems in a healthy, effective way? The good news is that there is no shortage of methods couples can use to keep their money, and their marriages, intact —even if you are complete opposites. Let’s take a look at methods that really work.

Don’t have separate bank accounts

Couples are called couples for a reason. After all, the preacher does say, ‘til death do you part. That goes double for having unified financial accounts —banking, investments, and insurance. It’s important that both spouses know what’s going on in their finances — all their finances — and having united accounts does the job there. If you do choose to have a separate account, let your partner know how much money is going in the account and be ready to share the account statements without a fuss.

Discuss debt openly

Let’s face it, one spouse is going to enter into holy matrimony with more debt than the other. If so, embrace it and be open about it. If both parties sign on to marriage, and to a financial together, there can be no secrets. And hiding debt is one of the worst secrets that a spouse can hide. More importantly, talk about the debt you have before you tie the knot and come up with a plan to pay it off. Sure, these conversations maybe unpleasant and may need to some conflict, but think of the long term benefits it can afford you once you have a solid plan to resolve the debt issues.

Discuss your “investment personality”

There are all kinds of investors on Wall Street, and on Main Street, too. Some are aggressive risk-grabbers, some would feel better with their cash stuffed in a mattress than in a mutual fund. The key is to honor and obey your spouse’s investment personality. Here’s where a good financial advisor can help — he or she can find balance and harmony between your investment behavioral types, and maybe save your marriage in the process.

Build an emergency savings account

This may seem like an innocuous financial move, but building an emergency fund can save a lot of fights from ever taking place between spouses. Here’s why. With an emergency fund in place, you’ll have a financial cushion if a financial calamity arises. Tempers are usually smoother and calmer when such disasters are avoided, and that’s what an emergency fund can do for you. This sounds easier said than done, especially if your loved one is not much of a “saver,” but saving even a a few dollars a day can help in times of need. If this is a sensitive topic in your household, start by saving small amounts of money to familiar and “break in” your partner to the idea of an “emergency fund.” Trust us, it will come in handy!

Marriage is more about “I do.” It’s also about what you don’t do. Fighting about money is at the top of that list. So take the above steps to avoid the verbal fisticuffs over finances, and watch your marriage accumulate mutual interest.

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Published April 13, 2011 Updated: October 18, 2022
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