Tag Archives: overcoming debt

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?

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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