Tag Archives: spending

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?

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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?