Are you on the same page when it comes to handling finances with your spouse?
It's official. Once you're married, you are now legally a twosome. Two is always better than one, right? Two together equals balance and harmony, building a new life together, and raising a family. Two people together for the rest of their lives.
And financially speaking? You've won the jackpot. You have two incomes, two bank accounts, and two retirement accounts. Combining assets feels great, but what happens if — all of a sudden — you need to separate them? What happens if you get divorced?
Almost half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, and money is one of the primary reasons. Money is the springboard for realizing your shared hopes and dreams, and yet, if you're not careful, it can easily become a trap that destroys your marriage.
Don't make these 3 money mistakes in your marriage:
1. Not aligning your goals.
It's shocking how many couples don't discuss their financial goals for the short and long-term future. Communication is essential to any healthy marriage, and finances need to be a part of the regular conversation.
Before you discuss them with your spouse, though, you need to define to yourself what your goals are: Do you want a house? Kids? Great vacations? Early retirement? What's your 5-, 10-, 20-, 30-year financial plan to support those dreams?
And what happens if your plans get derailed? What happens if you lose your job? What's your contingency? The rule of thumb is to steer clear of any debt and have six months of expenses in the bank if you lose your job.
How will you both know to do that if you haven't discussed it? How do you know you will be prepared? How do you know that you're both on the same page when it comes to spending and saving?
And, perhaps most importantly, how do you know that you're both working toward the same future? Get specific with each other.
Without specific long-term goals in mind, it will be difficult to make financial decisions together. Without a clear focus, money will flow like water through your fingers and you'll never know where it went. Or worse, you'll discover 5 or 10 years into the marriage that you never wanted the same things.
2. Not sharing responsibility.
Okay, so you've both decided that you want the house, kids, great vacations, and early retirement. Unfortunately, there is a lot of responsibility — both personal and financial — that comes with each of these goals.
Regardless of who does what in the relationship, this responsibility needs to be shared as much as possible. Why? Because that's what a partnership is. The sharing aspect of responsibility is the glue that will keep you together.
It is important that you both feel equal in your contributions and efforts. Without balance, there is an oh-so-subtle shift in knowledge and power that can create an ever-expanding crack in your relationship. And, you should ask yourself, why would just one of you own a responsibility that is so important for realizing your shared hopes and dreams?
However, the division of financial responsibility isn't always easy. Most couples don't have equal incomes, so, it is unrealistic to expect a 50/50 contribution from each person — and yet most couples don't know any other way. They sabotage themselves immediately with an unrealistic expectation.
Per the Suze Orman formula however, each spouse can be responsible for an equal percentage of the bills, rather than an equal dollar amount. With this formula, each spouse is contributing equally based on their income.
3. Not living below your means.
Living on two incomes is fabulous…until you are faced with divorce or realize too late that you won't be able to achieve your goals. Too many people get caught up in thinking that they "should" have what their friends and neighbors have — more or better "stuff" that does not equal a happier marriage or life.
Stop "shoulding" yourself. It all equals more responsibility — responsibility that actually detracts from your marriage and your shared goals. And once a marriage breaks under all that responsibility, it is a huge shock when all of your combined assets are now divided in a divorce. You are now back where you started, but now older and with kids.
Focus on what is really important, make smart financial decisions, and live below your means.
It isn't easy to take a good, long look at your finances, and to make realistic, responsible decisions. However, when you do, there is less financial stress on your marriage and more financial opportunity to achieve what you both want. You'll be the big winner when you have a happier marriage.
And hey, you may even get to retire early. Now that's financial bliss.