I think everyone that has followed this site for a while probably knows that I waaaaaay married up. My wife Coral has been my best friend since we were in high school (yes we are high school sweethearts…I know, very touching). Somehow, she isn’t tired of me yet and puts up with my ridiculousness on a daily basis.
As many good things as there are that I can say about our relationship, I think one of the things that I’m most proud of is that we don’t fight about money. Ever. I can’t think of a single argument we’ve ever had about money, even when we were super super broke in college.
Unfortunately, it’s not that way for a lot of couples out there. One of the most common questions I get from M$M readers is about figuring out how to communicate with their spouse about money. In fact, one-third of couples say they get into arguments about money every month (those fights are also the leading cause of divorce).
Here are a few things we do that have helped my wife and I handle our money together:
1. We realize what we’re both good at
I think the biggest key to finding a good balance with money as a couple is to be really open and honest about what you’re not very good at and where you excel.
Believe it or not, I have a horrific memory. Some days I’m honestly surprised that I’ve been able to create and run this business as well as I have.
My wife, on the other hand, has a ridiculously good memory and is also much more organized/type A than I am. That’s why she actually handles most of the recurring monthly expenses that we have like rent, our cell phone bill, etc.
With her handling that aspect of our finances, it allows me to focus on the stuff that I know I’m pretty effective with (like running the business and nerding out about Personal Capital).
So basically, it comes down to this: Don’t feel like you have to split financial responsibilities 50/50 just because you’re married. Try to find what you’re both great at, and then go forward from there instead.
2. We trust each other to make decisions
Obviously, to make a system work like the one I described above, there has to be a lot of trust involved. I don’t look over my wife’s shoulder to make sure that she does everything she needs to, and vice versa.
Instead, we just talk about things as often as we can, which builds trust that we’re both going to do what we need to do. This may be overkill (and mostly due to the fact that I’m a personal finance blogger by trade), but my wife and I talk about our finances daily.
It’s not formal or anything like that – it’s usually over dinner or in the car if we’re driving somewhere.
Typically it’s just a rundown of expenses that we have coming up, big wins for the business or her job, and just talking about cool things that we want to save up for like a vacation or furniture for our new house.
Those mini-conversations are the main reason we are able to run our finances so smoothly every month.
Basically, communication = trust. It’s really not a complicated formula.
3. We understand that half literally means half
I see people in denial about this all the time, and in my opinion, it just puts a weird strain on your relationship that doesn’t need to be there.
“Those are his student loans.”
“That’s her credit card debt.”
“That car payment is theirs, not mine.”
Well…sorry to break it to you Steve and Marge. Once you put a ring on it, you both own it.
If you’re married, your assets are legally shared 50/50. You’re welcome to think of it as “your money” or “their money” if it helps to keep you organized, but that doesn’t change the reality of your finances at all.
Getting out of denial with debt helps you get rid of it faster and get onto the more awesome things like guilt-free vacations and extra money in your retirement accounts.
Related: Should You Travel if You Have Debt?
It’s not just about debt though; this same concept also applies to income.
In our relationship, I make quite a bit more money right now. However, I NEVER talk about it like it’s just mine. It’s both of ours, and that’s the agreement that we made when we got married.
We enjoy the money together, and truth be told, if my wife hadn’t supported us when I quit my job to run this business…we wouldn’t have nearly as much.
I also have zero right to hold my income over my wife’s head or have a bigger say in where the money goes. We both have equal access to all of our various financial accounts, and it will always stay that way.
4. We tune out the noise around us
For young couples like us, this is probably the hardest thing to combat financially. We have so many friends and family around us that think we should have kids by now or drive nicer cars.
If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that pregnancy gets harder after 30, I’d fold this site up like a cheap lawn chair and move to Florida.
The reality is this – if we spent any time listening to them about what we should do with our money, we probably wouldn’t have any. There’s a reason we are so far ahead of the average U.S. household in our twenties.
You have to learn as a couple how to ignore the people around you. Unfortunately, that includes the people that you’re close with as well. Unless they start paying your bills for you, their opinion just straight-up doesn’t matter.
It’s OK not to buy the newest stuff for your kids. You don’t have to wear expensive clothes or drive nice cars just because other people think you should.
Yes, you can treat your dog like it’s your kid until you’re ready to have real ones (or forever if you don’t want kids at all).
You and your spouse are a team, and you’re playing your own game. Don’t try to play someone else’s.
When in doubt, communicate.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re worried about money or not comfortable with your financial strategy, you have to do everything you can to push past that and start talking.
Money doesn’t have to be taboo, and it never should come between you and your spouse. It’s just not important enough in the grand scheme of life.