A difference in financial perspectives between partners in a couple is a hard thing to overcome. There isn’t a way around it. You might not think of it during the wedding or the honeymoon, but it is something that needs to be discussed and mutually planned. To not do so puts your relationship at risk.
Chances are that your views on finance are different from your partners. You may have noticed that she spends less than you do, but when you spend your money it’s on fun things for the two of you. Maybe he is a super saver, and you believe that money worked hard for should be used to enjoy life a bit. Does it seem like these circumstances could be a problem? Not immediately, but if you’re married then over time even small differences like this create rifts, and these subjects are hard to talk about, because changing behavior usually comes with it.
Talk About Each of Your Salaries and Spending Habits
The couples out there that make the same amount of money and have the same spending or saving habits are few and far between. Before the status quo is set and the ability to easily get through this exchange is hampered, sit down together and candidly talk about each of your salaries, spending habits, uses for money and goals for the future. Make sure to keep the conversation on money, as it may be easy to drag other parts of your life into it. Don’t be scared though, it’s never too late to do this.
If you find yourself thinking about this before marriage, you’re already many steps ahead of most. In fact, if you and your partner agree, consider altering the wedding plans a bit to get even more of a head start. The beginning of your marital bliss shouldn’t be the taking on of debt because of social pressures to have a big, beautiful wedding. There are options that are just as perfect and special, that don’t cost five figures.
Start With Your Goals for Your Money
If you’re already married and want to start establishing financial goals, keep in mind: the big picture is what counts. There is no wrong way to go about talking finance with your significant other, but the circumstances are vastly different between couples. Perhaps your salaries are similar but you spend and save differently, perhaps one partner makes 10x what the other does but spends 10x more of their paycheck. Talk about it! For some, money is an incredibly touchy subject. It’s ironic that much more intimate details of life are shared between people, yet money sometimes remains off limits. It’s a shame. Aligning your goals for your money builds relationship strength. Not talking about this with your partner is akin to keeping an important piece of your life hidden from their knowledge.
Start with your goals for your money. Put down on paper what you dream to have someday, whether it’s a house, a sports car, a retirement account with X amount by age Y, abolition of debt, a fully-funded college account or whatever. These are the things you need. Then start with the things that you really enjoy: things that make your daily lives easier and more fulfilling. Whittle down the list until you have only the best of these things, and eliminate all others. Now that you have a list of what you’ll spend money on, you can begin planning to save for the big goals like a house.
Live Comfortably in the Future
The first step after every paycheck is to take a reasonable percentage out and put it in some sort of investment instrument. It could be a mutual fund, many mutual funds, a diverse collection of stocks or just the bank. It’s hard to limit yourself like this, but just think of this money as you paying yourself. Before you spend a cent, pay yourself. The amount you save will depend on the agreed upon list of things you and your spouse need to pay for, how long you plan on saving and how much your goals cost.
The only thing to reconcile now is the different perspectives between you. If you’re the one who is obsessively saving, know that you are now saving what you need to fulfill your goals, and learn to enjoy your money a bit more. If you’re the one who likes to spend more often on frivolities, appreciate that the money you’re putting towards your future will allow you to live comfortably in the future. Plus, you still get to spend on the niceties most important to you and feel good about it.
Don’t drop this all on your partner at once. Take some time to think about it, and about him or her. You’re a team, and having a mutual understanding and adhering to a financial plan will make you closer, and happier.