Whether you have been married for 50 years or dating a year, your ability to communicate about finances is crucial to staying a happy couple. Couples committed to create a life together understand their relationship is a financial arrangement in addition to a romantic one. Helping hundreds of families over the past two decades, one absolute truth I’ve learned is that everyone has hang-ups about money. Here are six steps to help keep I Do, I DO!
1. Commit to Your Romantic and Financial Future Together
Start with unifying your future goals by dreaming up your bucket list. Your money values are based on a lifetime of experience — likely very different from your partner’s experience. It’s important to acknowledge and respect those differences and give full disclosure of your income as well as what you own and owe. Share what you learned about money growing up, mistakes you have made and current financial priorities.
2. Respect Each Other’s Personal Space – Physical & Financial
While many couples spend the bulk of their time and financial resources together, most appreciate the need for time with friends and on their own. Having money for independent spending is healthy as well. There are several ways to implement this including “Yours, Mine, Ours” accounts. Agree on how much needs to go in the “Ours” account and which bills will be paid from it, then set up personal allowances in “Yours/Mine” to spend with no questions asked.
3. Leverage Each Other’s Time and Treasure
Love means being a Team. Focus on your combined abilities to positively impact the relationship rather than expecting a 50/50 split. Find creative ways to efficiently help in a manner your partner values most. How much do you appreciate having the taxes taken care of, the vacation planned or even just gas in your car and the dry cleaning picked up? Concentrate on the little and big things that matter to make life more enjoyable for both of you.
4. Plan for Romantic Dates and Money Dates
In addition to prioritizing time for the two of you to laugh during regular fun nights out and periodic long weekends, schedule dates to connect about your money. Whether it’s ordering in a nice dinner once a month to sit down with your laptops and review your spending, or a quarterly breakfast to discuss whether you are on track for retirement, making time for romantic and money dates is less time consuming than having arguments or going through a divorce. Do not let an anniversary go by without formally looking at your current household income, assets and liabilities, and ensuring that your spending is in line with your values.
5. Prepare for the Unexpected
Of course relationships have ups and downs as life evolves. Help reduce the impact by focusing on your physical fitness and demonstrating you still care with affection. Stay fiscally fit by being appropriately insured and saving emergency reserves for the inevitable furnace break down or unexpected job loss.
6. Use Experts to Thrive
Lay a solid relationship foundation by utilizing couples retreats or counseling proactively. Hire a financial advisor to provide space to reflect on what a full life looks like for you as a couple and then manage the financial details to accomplish your goals. These are wise investments to minimize your conflict and maximize your future together.
Go for it! Openly communicate to make your relationship stronger and wealthier. Regularly adapting your goals to different life stages is an exciting, liberating way to renew your relationship and deepen your bond to live happily ever after.
Heather L. Locus, CPA, CFP®, CDFA® is a BDF Owner, founder of our Women’s Service Team and leads our Divorce Practice Group. She loves solving complex problems by balancing the financial and emotional components with tax and legal issues. Heather frequently presents “The Financially Responsible Woman: Five Strategies for a Full Life” and “When I do Becomes I Don’t: Five Strategies for a Financially Responsible Divorce”. She educates parents on instilling their values and work ethic through her presentation, “Raising Financially Intelligent Children”. Heather has contributed to various publications including The Wall Street Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business, the AARP Bulletin and Divorce Magazine.