Tag Archives: debt

5 Tell-Tale Signs Debt Is Ruining Your Marriage

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

Guest post by Krisca C. Te

It’s difficult to be happy in life or in marriage when you’re living in debt. Money shouldn’t be a deciding issue in any relationship, much more for two people who are bound by love and marriage. Still, debt is one of the more common reasons married couples get divorced. It may not be solely the financial situation that made them decide to give up, but they may have failed to see the tell-tale signs that debt was ruining their relationship.

 If money or debt has been a reason for one of your past arguments with your spouse, watch out for the following signs:

 1.   You tend to lie to each other or keep secrets when it comes to money.

Trust is the key in any kind of relationship – business or personal. Even a small white lie can instantly erode trust that took years to earn. Lies compromise one’s integrity and worth. It prevents clear communication and often leads to bigger lies and a web of problems. If you cannot trust your spouse, what kind of relationship is it?

 Don’t hide debt from your partner. Hiding things from your spouse will only make you feel anxious and stressed. You may not notice it, but it will put a strain on your relationship. Be transparent with your finances, no matter how ashamed you are of your debt, so you can both start fixing it. Being clear on things lets your spouse know that while you may make some poor choices, you choose to keep your spouse’s trust and respect by always admitting your errors.

 Confront the Issue. If your spouse lied about money, confront the situation. While it is stressful, there isn’t any way around it. The faster you deal with it, the quicker you can get rid of it. Consider why they felt they had to hide the problem from you. Even if the reason doesn’t suffice, at least you can immediately work something out to fix the problem.

Forgive. Yes, as much as you want to say “I told you so”, it will not do anything to fix the problem. Forgive and move on. It does not mean that you will forget the mistake; it only means that you are giving them a chance to redeem themselves.

 2.   You prioritize money before your spouse.

Sadly, this happens to many people. Think about it, when you first got together with your spouse, it’s unlikely that you’ve thought of getting together to bring more money into the relationship. You got married, initially, because you fell in love. Expect only one thing that your spouse can offer you: love.

 Don’t try buy your happiness. Money indeed makes the world go round, and in some cases, can buy a more comfortable lifestyle. But what really is happiness for you? When you have all the money in the world, but you are alone, what’s the point? Living a great life is all about great companionship.

 3.   You use money to manipulate your spouse.

Usually, the one who brings more money home is the one who wields more power. This can cause relationship problems as it brings in our egos and insecurities.

Don’t use money to dominate. Even if you are the breadwinner, do not use it as an excuse to dominate every decision in the household. Like a well-run business, every member has a right for their input; denying your spouse of this right will cause bruised egos.

 4.   You blame each other for any problems you encounter.

It is easy for people to take credit for good things that happen to them, but then point the finger at someone else for any downfall. Before you start blaming, consider looking at your own contributions to the problem.

Avoid accusing your partner. Trust is essential. Do not accuse your partner the moment you feel something is amiss. Learn to investigate first before you start hurling comments – especially hurtful ones. Justice will not be served by blindly putting down someone just because it makes you feel better.

Avoid labeling each other. This stops any effort for a change in problematic attitude because you’ve already given up on them. Instead, encourage each other to bring the best to the table to solve your issues.

 Don’t keep making excuses to justify your bad choices. Running away and pretending that it does not exist will only make things worse, because interest piles up faster than you can imagine. The faster you can pay up, the less interest you have to pay.

 5.   You constantly fight, but refuse to really communicate.

 There’s a difference between arguing and fighting. Arguing is a way of communication, an exchange of thoughts—even though you disagree—to achieve harmony. Fighting is senseless bickering; it only shifts the blame without solving the problem.

 Begin working together. It may be difficult to control your emotions at first, but the more you work at it, the easier it will become. Think rationally and set aside your feelings for the moment. Don’t start the blame game; instead, begin working on a financial plan to clear your debt. Let your spouse know that you appreciate any input he or she can contribute to improving your financial situation. You might be surprised to know that your partner may be more than willing to bring ideas to the table. Make it a habit to regularly communicate your current savings and debt.

Ask for help. Debt isn’t just a money problem, it’s also a marriage problem. Even married couples have different opinions and outlook in life. Debt only intensifies the dissimilarities in a couple. When couples constantly fight because of money, they need to remember their partner’s better qualities and look beyond the issue. Sometimes this is hard to do because of our emotion. A pro-marriage counselor or a financial counselor may help, because a third party can look at your situation with a neutral and fresh eye.

Krisca C. Te is part of the team that manages Austrailian credit cards. Read the personal finance blog based in Sydney, Australia. Before she joined ACC, she was an Associate in Deutsche Bank Group under Market and Instruments Control Services.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

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Beware of Financial Infidelity

This morning on the Today Show, financial experts reviewed research on how money is the number-one cause of marital fights, and said the more couples fight about money, the more likely they are to become divorced.

We talked about this research here in February. The gist of it is that the more debt you have, the higher your marital stress level, while increased assets seem to bring security. Couples who used a budget had fewer arguments and higher marital satisfaction.

An interesting concept the Today contributors brought up that I had been thinking about is financial infidelity. That means one or both people are sneaking around about how they spend or save money. Secrets lead to fights, and fights lead to big marriage problems. It’s critical for couples to put all their financial debts, challenges and struggles out in the open so they can be negotiated and managed. Plans for improving finances will be more effective when honesty is displayed.

In the financial stability area, I feel extremely blessed. I can’t recall a single fight about money in our almost-15-year marriage. However, we have unusually similar financial priorities, goals and tendencies. For instance, we both tend to be savers, not spenders. And we like to spend money on the same sorts of things. My hubby tends to be a bit of a spendthrift about some things, which we may occasionally tease him about. But the bottom line is that I know his cautiousness about spending is a way to protect the family for the future.

So, we drive our cars longer than most people I know, and we delay on some unnecessary expenses, but we sleep better at night. We are probably also unusual in that we keep separate checking accounts (although both our names are listed on the accounts, and we both have full access if we needed it). This wouldn’t work for some couples, but it works well for us. Our savings accounts are combined.

Our philosophy has always been to spend less than we earn, substantially less when possible. That may seem obvious to most of you. (I sure hope so.) However, many couples are still thinking they can spend more this year and make it up next year. This generally leads to taking out loans or credit card debt, leading to increased fees and higher debt, more stress, and more arguments.

The experts suggest:

  1. Weekly meetings about your finances where you each provide updates, concerns and progress on your financial plans. You’ll need to discuss and negotiate your financial goals and plans. If you can’t have these meetings without fighting, you may need professional help (financial counselor, accountant, etc.)
  2. If you have credit card debt, focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rate first. Put all your extra money toward paying that one off, while you pay only the minimums on other cards. Then move to the card with the next highest interest rate.
  3. Use automatic payment plans to set up the payments you agree upon.
  4. If you argue about money more than 1-2 times a month, and you feel those arguments are harming your marriage, consider seeing a marriage counselor. Your upbringing and tendencies from your family of origin affect the way you view and use money. Money is viewed as power in a marriage. If you allow these issues to fester, and particularly if financial infidelity creeps in, your marriage is at risk. Divorce is more expensive than a marriage counselor, so get help before it becomes too difficult to repair.
  5. Consider selling assets or downsizing if your lifestyle has become too stressful to maintain. Even if you can afford a higher lifestyle, no one says you must upgrade. One couple I know chooses to use their excess for charitable giving. This decision has given them much greater peace and satisfaction in their marriage than they receive from spending.
  6. When possible, each spouse should have some flexibility in spending so they don’t begin to view their spouse as a “parent” who must approve every expenditure.

Also, read Money Help: Becoming a Financial Free Couple.

Has money been the cause of arguments in your relationship? Have you learned how to better manage these issues without fights?

Money Help: Become a Financially Free Couple

As a follow up to the last post on Money Help, which included reasons to make your financial health a priority in your marriage, I’d like to share a few practical resources. One of the most well-known and successful financial gurus is Dave Ramsey, a debt-free fanatic. I say that in a good way–I’ve heard many success stories of couples who have followed his plan to financial freedom. I like how Ramsey calls borrowing “debt” and not “credit” or “borrowing,” which are terms banks use to make it seem more pleasant. Even if you are not in debt, read the entire post, as I have a positive challenge for everyone!

Ramsey’s web site is replete with useful tools and info. Even if your spouse isn’t yet on board, start reading there to build your excitement for financial freedom. Take some baby steps, such as the three steps for building wealth for young adults. Reading about how others have dug themselves out of tens of thousands of debt (or more), or attained financial dreams, is liberating. It may require a shift in your thinking and possibly in your behavior.

Dustin at EngagedMarriage completed Ramsey’s plan to become debt-free last year. He finds his biggest money wasters are on eating out and entertainment and has resolved to trim his spending as well as his waistline for higher goals.

Kathleen at ProjectM explains how she and her husband live very happily and frugally by following a unique set of cultural values in their community. Chief among these is to buy only what you need (i.e. gadgets are not a need), to do the work rather than hiring others, and to produce what you can rather than purchase it. These are serious DIYers.

One of the couples I interviewed who have been happily married for more than 30 years refused to take out school loans to complete medical school. (School loans are also frowned upon by Ramsey.) They scrimped and saved–and even sold blood products–to get through each semester without borrowing. They continued to live a simple lifestyle even after earning much more, and use their savings for charitable endeavors.

Ramsey hits the nail on the head when he explains that most of us just want what we want now. We don’t want to wait. We don’t want to sacrifice. We’d like the lifestyle of those who have worked for 30 years, but we want it within 3 years.  Some find credit as the way to achieve that lifestyle.  The real joy in Ramsey’s financial plan is that it frees you from the bondage of debt. Our country is all about freedom. We want freedom to do what we want when we want it. But without financial freedom, you are indebted to someone and not really free at all.  What would you be doing differently if you had financial freedom? Whom would you help?

Financial sacrifice may be good practice for our marriages. After all, we shouldn’t always get our way in our relationships. We need to learn to put another’s needs ahead of our own. As many begin the Lenten season today, consider whether some type of sacrifice may benefit your family or marriage, maybe even something as small as spending the evening doing something your husband chooses, or giving your wife the day off from mothering responsibilities.

Whether you sacrifice in dollars or in loving acts, the treasure will be returned to you with interest.

Money Help: Just in time for Valentine’s Day

Couples today are often more comfortable talking about sex than money—and they may be more compatible sexually than financially. Creating budgets and living within your means may not seem romantic, but new research (yes, I’m all about research) may convince you that the state of your financial affairs directly and profoundly impacts your love life.

If this subject has been on your marriage’s back burner, think about scheduling time with your sweetie in the next month to discuss your financial goals and outstanding debt, and to agree on upcoming expenses. My blogging pal, Brad Chaffee at EnemyofDebt.com, is offering some useful tools to help you get your financial house in order at Manage Your Money.

Why should you care about money in your marriage? First, you can reduce the number of disagreements you have by setting and using a budget. Second, you can improve the happiness in your marriage by reducing debt and living simply. If you don’t believe me, listen to the experts:

A study just released by Matt Bell and Synavate concludes that couples who use a budget are less likely to have financial fights. Nearly 40% of married couples say they argue about money, but when they have a budget, those disagreements go down by 11%. The financial topics most married couples argue about are spending (49%), debt (33%) savings (26%), investing (15%) and donating (10%). Stop fighting and start making joint decisions about these matters.

The New York Times reports couples burdened with credit card debt are more likely to experience marital difficulty. The newspaper reported on the research of Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project. Dew’s report Bank On It: Thrifty Couples are the Happiest says “consumer debt plays a powerful role in eroding the quality of married life.” While assets solidify ties between spouses and protect against divorce, debt puts a strain on all marriages, whether they have high or low incomes. If one perceives his or her spouse of not handling money well, lower happiness is rated in the marriage. And viewing one’s spouse as a foolish spender increases odds of divorce by 45%.

Dew says money fights last longer and escalate higher than other topics, and men tend to take financial conflict particularly hard. That may be why he says financial conflict predicts divorce better than other types of disagreement. The good news is that the American recession has made debt-reduction and savings-accumulation chic again, and resources abound. It’s up to you to use the tools available. “Clearly, money matters play a crucial role in shaping the quality and stability of married life in the U.S.,” says Dew. “In particularly, couples who are wise enough to steer clear of materialism and consumer debt are much more likely to enjoy connubial bliss.”

Read the next post once you have decided to pursue financial freedom.

 How about it, ready to talk green to preserve your marital harmony? Or it just too hard to face those mounting credit card bills?

Show Me the Money!

This seems to be the mantra of many married couples. Couples report that what they argue most about is money, followed by children. You will find “financial problems” among the top five reasons marriages fail (along with lack of commitment to the marriage, poor communication, a dramatic change in priorities and infidelity).

It seems everyone is talking about financial concerns and struggles due to the economic downturn. Money is causing even more stress in many marriages, with less coming in and more going out. How did we get here and how can we turn things around?

I recently interviewed a couple who have been married more than 30 years and who have been through some incredibly challenging times. Among their many challenges, a financial crisis was one of the easiest things they overcame together. The key was being on the same team, working together to solve the problem. Early in their marriage, arguments about money were really about who had the power to decide how money was spent. Later in their marriage, money was a tool to help them live the life they wanted. When a financial crisis came, they put all hands on deck to solve it. It took many years to get out of debt, but it actually strengthened, rather than weakened, their marriage.

Another couple I talked to has been married more than 60 years. They say money was never a cause of arguments in their long marriage. You see, they were raised during the Great Depression. They know about hard times, and they know how important it is to save. So they worked hard, saved well and lived a very simple lifestyle. We’re a long way from that ideal in today’s America.

How did we get here?

One of the reason so many couples are in financial difficulty is because the rate of savings has declined tremendously in recent decades, from about 11% in 1982 to less than zero today, meaning on average people are spending more than they are making. Of course, debt causes stress in all areas of our lives. Add to the lack of savings weaker job prospects, lower earnings and a steep decline in our retirement accounts. (Reportedly, half of boomers don’t have retirement accounts to worry about.) For more insight about why we can’t seem to save and how our culture has contributed to this trend, read:

http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Savinganddebt/Savemoney/P145775.asp

What now?

Ask yourself what is really important to you. If money is a constant source of conflict, be aware that it can whittle away at your marriage. I once had a friend who said she couldn’t afford marriage counseling. Less than two years later, she was divorced, losing her house and filing for bankruptcy with two children to care for. Can you afford not to resolve the issue?

The silver lining to the economic downturn is that more people are deciding (by choice or necessity) to adjust their lifestyle and find ways to enjoy family life without spending money. There are tons of resources available to help you do that. Hopefully in a few years, instead of “Show me the money!” more Americans will be saying, “Show me the love!”

Sources:

 Making Marriage Last,” published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

www.divorcereform.org

What Would You Do With $1 Million?

“Forget trying to keep up with the Joneses. The Joneses are broke!” I heard this quote recently on the news and wanted to say, “Amen, sister.” We are learning that the vast majority of Americans have been living beyond their means for some time.

 

It reminded me of an interview I had with a couple (happily married since 1967) who were imparting their best marriage advice. One of the earliest decisions they made in their marriage was to live debt-free and not to advance their lifestyle. That means when they have extra money, instead of buying a bigger house or a flat-screen TV, they give it away. Shocking in today’s culture, isn’t it?

 

With their high levels of academic achievement (a physician and master’s in Education) they could have sought out high-paying jobs, new furniture, nicer cars and a shinier lifestyle. Instead they chose jobs and volunteer roles for their real contributions. They have given significant sums to charities. They have also used their time and money on mission trips.

 

They still live a comfortable lifestyle and reared and educated two children. But they never let money take control of their life or their decisions. And they never argue about money. How many marriages today would benefit if financial stress was removed?

 

If you were handed a million dollars today, would it change your life? Would you buy a new house, put in the market, take a trip to Europe, plan for retirement, help your parents, give a little away or put it under your mattress (because you can’t trust today’s banks)?