By Essie Bester
Statistics show that not only is money the major cause of quarrels between spouses, it is also responsible for 22% of all divorces. The reason for this is that people think differently about money and attach different values to it.
- Understand your partner’s money criteria
Money has a strong emotional value. One person may see it as something that can give pleasure and therefore has to be spent while another sees it as something that guarantees security and therefore has to be saved. This financial frame of reference is formed in your parental home during childhood.
To avoid conflict about money, you have to know what each other’s frame of reference is. The Money Harmony quiz at https://www.moneyharmony.com/moneyharmony-quiz is a free online quiz with which you can determine your money personality – whether you’re a hoarder, a money monk, a money avoider or a money lover, or whether perhaps you are a spender. This is a fun way of getting the conversation going and simplify what otherwise could be an uncomfortable subject.
- Discuss your financial situation
Experts agree that you should fully disclose your financial position to your partner before tying the knot, however uncomfortable this nay be. All outstanding debts, loans, sources of income, investments or other financial assets or obligations must be disclosed.
If it is your second or third marriage and you have to pay child maintenance, or even if you think that you will probably have to provide financial support to your aged parents or adult children, it will have to be discussed as early as possible.
- Do not expose yourself to disaster
The biggest mistake most couples make is to spend too much on their marriage.
Most of the time young couples cannot afford to pay cash for an expensive marriage. They therefore incur debt to pay for this one-day celebration and so they literally drown in debt from day one.
Although this does not mean that couples should skimp on their wedding, those with a tight budget should do something smaller or find other ways to make the marriage more affordable.
- Work towards the same goal
The circumstances of life change and therefore it is not uncommon for people’s financial expectations and priorities to change with time. The problem is that couples often fail to consult each other regularly to check that they are still pursuing the same goal.
- Draw up a monthly budget together
Jointly draw up a workable budget and stick to it. Although this is the most efficient way of checking where your money is going, a Gallup poll (Gallup is an American analysis and advice undertaking) shows that only 32% of couples do it.
Although you will probably differ about how much to spend and on what it should be spent, a written plan will help to improve communication. It is also a way of finding out what value each attaches to money and what is important to each of them.
In a survey by Moneysupermarket.com (a British price comparison business specialising in financial services), 1 out of 10 people said that their secret credit card purchases lead to a break-up or divorce.
While it is not necessary to micromanage your partner or to expect him or her to declare every purchase to you, it can be dangerous to your marriage to hide accounts or to lie about big purchases. When this comes out, as inevitably it will, it could lead to bigger emotional issues such as feelings of guilt in the one who has been concealing the secret and credibility issues in the partner who was betrayed.
- Give each other breathing space
Various experts recommend that spouses should have separate budgets for spending on discretionary items of their choice. These are funds that can be used at discretion and partners need not report to each other every month on what it was spent on – as long as each one remembers that they should stay within their budget.
As far as expenditure is concerned, it is important to have ground rules to, for instance, determine which purchases should be discussed beforehand and/or what a reasonable spending limit on clothes, kids toys, food or other household items would be. The “cost per use” – based on the question whether the use you will get from an item would justify its cost – could be a good indication for determining whether an item is worth the money.
Treat your spouse as you would like to be treated. Experts say one of the biggest problems that couples have to deal with when it comes to money, is the way in which they argue about it. You may complain about something your partner does but do not use contemptuous words or negative labels such as “irresponsible” to describe their behaviour.
If quarrels about money have hijacked your marriage and you are close to giving up, you should consider getting help from a third party who can help you get back on track. Financial therapy is a developing field specifically dedicated to helping couples with financial problems.