The Wall Street Journal provided some marriage advice this week for the many couples who argue about money in an article called “Money Matters Can Make or Break a Marriage.” It’s not just marriages writer Jeff Opdyke is aiming to improve, it’s also the financial wellbeing of the households.
The problem: A great many couples are feeling the pinch right now, but even when the economy is flying high, many couples argue about money more than anything else. They argue about how to spend it, save it, invest it and budget it. Frequently, one spouse has more financial prowess than the other, or at least has a greater interest in the topic. The other may find his or her eyes glazing over at the mere suggestion to set a budget together. There are also many marriages in which neither spouse has a great financial understanding, putting them at risk for questionable decisions. If even one of you thinks this is a problem, it’s time to take action.
The solution: Seek help.
Because financial arguments bring emotional baggage, tempers can flare. Deeper issues surface. Spouses feel they and their needs are not understood. Putting a neutral person in the middle greatly improves the chances of making progress. Getting a financial planner or financial counselor involved can greatly diffuse tempers and can keep you from making decisions based on emotions. Let him or her know ahead of time that this is an area in which you have disagreements, and inform the counselor of your specific issues or goals. “With such a strategy, you’re letting the pro absorb the energy that would otherwise fuel a fight, and you’re getting impartial advice that can work to bridge the differences separating you two,” writes Opdyke.
He adds that you don’t have to care about the financial details, you just have to care about the relationship enough to forge a path that meets both of your needs. The resulting plan can hopefully put you on a much better track for financial health as well as marital health.
To find a pro, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a professional they’ve worked with, or call a professional association and explain your needs. You could consider a fee-based financial planner or find someone to offer ongoing support. If you think you can’t afford such services, think about how much a divorce could cost you.
Do you understand your partner’s financial hopes and dreams? Does one of you want to spend the tax refund on a big-screen TV or new sun room, while the other wants to save it for the kids’ college? Is one of you so obsessed about saving for the future, that you haven’t taken a vacation in years? Stop arguing and get a financial checkup, along with advice from a pro.