Do you remember the first financial conversation you had with your spouse? Maybe it took place before you even exchanged “I do’s.” If you lived together before marriage, these conversations might have been about sharing expenses and paying bills. Discussions about finance in marriage might be about topics such as funding household projects, managing joint accounts, running a joint venture, and planning vacations.
While it’s not always easy, talking about finances in marriage is something you absolutely need to do. Here are three Cs couples should plan to address to head off or overcome financial discontent in their relationship: collaborate, communicate, and control.
Money conversations can be difficult, which is why financial conversations aren’t the norm for many. In fact, many people believe that money is a taboo topic, even when discussing it with their spouse.
Fidelity Investments’ 2021 Couples and Money Study found that just 64% of couples discuss finances at least monthly, and 44% say they argue about money at least occasionally. A 2021 Ramsey Solutions study reported that 86% of couples married five years or less entered their marriage with debt. Both studies noted that accumulated debt, retirement, and long-term savings are among the topics that keep couples up at night, but many still have trouble opening the conversation.
Other topics that demand active communication and cooperation to keep finances in marriage on track:
Many external factors can impact financial sharing between couples and cause financial discontent, such as the economy and the changing nature of work. Stock market volatility is another factor outside couples’ control that affects those who rely on stock option compensation or securities as a source of income.
As more workers participate in today’s project economy, independent and freelance workers find their incomes fluctuating from month to month and year to year as assignments flow in or dry up. The boom-or-bust nature of compensation for these workers makes financial planning harder and communication ever more necessary.
Though it can be difficult to start the conversation, it is worth it. Ramsey Solutions reports that 87% of couples who say their marriage is “great” also say they work together with their spouse to set long-term financial goals. And 94% of those with “great” marriages report that they discuss money dreams together.
Taking time to plan increases your chances of creating a strong foundation for the future, increases peace of mind, and has the additional benefit of improving your chances of reaching your shared financial goals.
Building a strong foundation for finance in marriage is key to tackling money-related challenges. The best way to bolster your family’s financial footing is to follow the “Three C’s”: Communicate, Collaborate, and Control.
Make it a point to discuss your vision for the future as a couple and with a financial advisor. Setting these joint goals and carefully tracking your progress can influence your savings strategy, both in the short term in day-to-day budgeting and in a retirement savings plan.
Collaboration is essential to overall stability, even if both parties assume different financial responsibilities in a relationship. Unfortunately, in many marriages, it’s common for one partner to find themselves “suddenly single” due to death or divorce. Collaboration allows both parties in a relationship to sharpen their financial know-how so that no matter the situation, both individuals can feel comfortable if they have to manage their finances alone.
When taking control of their financial future, communication and collaboration give couples the upper hand. While only 54% of couples reported making joint decisions for day-to-day finances, Fidelity Investment reports that those who share control in these decisions are more likely to communicate well with their partner, feel confident in their partner’s ability to make money decisions, and find agreement over retirement decisions in the future.
It’s never too late for couples to make a game plan and get on track. From simple budgeting to long-term retirement planning, taking control can be as simple as communicating and collaborating on goals for the future. While financial discussions can be hard on a marriage, developing a shared vision for the future can bring a couple closer together and make a marriage even stronger.
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[Editors’ Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to attend the following on-demand webinars (which you can view at your leisure, and each includes a comprehensive customer PowerPoint about the topic):
This is an updated version of an article originally published on August 5, 2015, and revised on August 28, 2019.]
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Head of Wealth and Asset Management at Figure, a San Francisco Bay area financial technology company with the mission of leveraging blockchain, AI and advanced analytics. Share this page: