Couples may talk about money on a daily basis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re communicating. Just look at the divorce rate.
With the expectation of divorce for new couples hovering around 50%—and with studies often citing money problems as a leading factor in those divorces—good communication skills are essential if couples hope to stay together and iron out their financial issues, says Jane Honeck, a CPA, personal-finance expert and author of The Problem With Money?
“Focusing on an overall vision and money plan will keep both of you moving in the same direction,” Honeck advises. “Once you have done that, the small everyday decisions about what to spend your money on take care of themselves with little or no effort. When we have clear communication and know why we do something, the ‘what to do’ with our money is easy.”
Honeck’s tips include:
- Talk. Talk, talk talk. Money, like sex, is still a taboo topic even between couples, and people often don’t have a clear idea about how a partner thinks or feels about money.
- Find balance. Balance power around money. One person making all the decisions and having all the control is a recipe for disaster. Find ways for both partners to be equally engaged in all money decisions.
- Make decisions together. Decide what is “mine, yours and ours.” Most couples agree on their own hybrid system for what works best.
- Define the system. Have a clearly defined money management system all the way from who handles the mail to who sends out the checks. Without a well thought-out operational plan, things fall through the cracks.
- Address problems. When things get tough, address problems immediately. No secrets allowed. Avoiding the issue only makes it more toxic and drives a wedge in the relationship.
- Perform checkups. Schedule an annual money checkup with each other. Things change, and just as with physical health, money management needs an annual checkup to keep it fit and relevant.
- Talk a little more. Talk, talk and talk some more. The most important thing is to have open communication with no blame and shame. Everybody has hang-ups around money. Partners must treat each other with compassion.
“At the end of the day, couples need not argue about money,” Honeck says. “It’s not just about communication. It’s about making a plan, and sticking to it together. Information gives you power over your finances. Not talking about them, not making a plan and not coordinating as a team makes you a victim of your finances. If you control your finances, they will never control you or your marriage.”
Honeck is a money coach who specializes in tax and financial planning for professionals, small businesses and individuals. She has developed Cent$ible Living financial workshops and money coaching sessions to help clients make lasting change in their financial lives.