The truth about managing finances inside of a marriage is that it can be extremely difficult. Even if you and your spouse are particularly good at it, I’m sure there are still times when it causes tension.
I recently came across a few interesting statistics that reviewed just how much of an impact finances have on our marriages – and ultimately our likelihood of staying married.
The Statistics of Money and Divorce
So just how much of an impact does finance have on a marriage? Here few specific examples.
- Those who make over $50,000 a year are 30% less likely to get divorced than someone who makes less than $25,000.
While making more money does not guarantee happiness, it seems to have a correlation to lower divorce rates.
It shouldn’t be surprising to us that living at the poverty level can cause an undue burden on marriages. We often hear in the personal finance field about how important it is to budget, but for someone at this income level budgeting will only go so far.
Increasing our income is something we should focus on just as much as budgeting. The statistics show that it will have a positive in pact on our marriages – at least as we get closer to $50,000 of income.
There are other factors likely at play in these households that earn less than $25,000 as well.
It goes to reason that whatever stresses we can eliminated form marriage will help make it function smoother – and having an adequate income is no exception.
- The feeling that your spouse is either spending money unnecessarily or not following an agreed upon budget can increase the likelihood of divorce by 45%.
Being on the same page financially with your spouse can make a big difference. Having no plan in place not only makes it more difficult to gauge how you are doing, it also makes it impossible hold each other and yourself accountable.
When you have a financial goal or roadmap this gives you a point of reference when money differences arise. If you don’t have a plan, the expectations you have for your spouse may be unfair.
They may think they are doing just fine – and yet they may not be meeting your expectations. How can we fairly hold someone to a standard that hasn’t been discussed or agreed upon?
You have to know what you are working towards and be on the same page for money to work inside your marriage – or any other relationship.
And once you are on the same page, it is important to follow through. When one spouse does their part and the other doesn’t, the result is tension.
- Couples who argue about money weekly are 30% more likely to get divorced.
Having the same conversation weekly without making progress is enough to drive anyone crazy. Many couples visit this topic over and over without resolution. Eventually it takes its toll.
In addition to not having a plan in place, many couples don’t know where to get started. They argue because they know there must be a better way but are unsure as to what that better way ultimately is.
Again, having an agreed upon plan will help align you and your spouse when differences arise. If you are not reviewing your progress often don’t be surprised if your goals lose their meaning and disagreements continue to arise. This should be front-of-mind like any goal you are working towards as a family.
- Couples who started with no assets and after a 3-year period had made no progress, are 70% more likely to divorce than those who started with no assets and ended with $10,000 after that same 3-year period.
I find this statistic very interesting. Simply stated, couples who made no financial progress were more likely to get divorced – and at a much higher percent.
This statistic dealt specifically with couples who started with no assets, but it hits on an important point that is very critical for couples of any financial situation.
This deals with human nature at its very core. Fulfillment – and ultimately happiness – comes when we are making progress. This is true for any aspect of life and not just money.
Progress can also be called positive momentum. When we are moving forward we feel more at peace and have higher confidence in ourselves. Life feels better when we are improving.
Financial exercise is similar to physical exercise – it is usually most painful at the beginning but gets better as you consistently do it.
The couple who battles through the challenges of money and makes progress will come out the other side much stronger because of it. Conversely, if progress isn’t made it will likely deteriorate our relationships.
The real concern is not the frustration that comes along with money, it’s the lack of progress. Even small steps can make a big difference.
It is helpful to document your starting point and reference it often so you can see the improvements that are being made. When you can see this progress, the tensions surrounding money will lessen.
Be happy with even the small steps of progress – don’t beat yourselves up.
How to Work Through Money with Your Spouse
Here are a few suggestions that may help alleviate the pressure of money and marriage.
Your monthly spending is the first area you must come to an agreement on. The frustrations you are feeling are likely coming just as much from the unknows as the knows.
Once you know what money is going out you can start sorting it into needs, wants, and luxuries. This will eliminate the unknows of your spending and help you determine if you have enough to cover your necessities.
Here is a more detailed explanation of how to analyze these spending reviews and come up with a “budget”.
In order to have success with your spouse and your finances, you have to have a plan. Something you both agree on and can work towards.
When disagreements arise, you can point back to your goal and see if that particular action is helping you get closer to your desired final destination.
If this plan is not in place you will likely run in circles with your finances – as you may both be focusing on different goals or not focusing at all.
These goals should include budgeting, investing, luxury spending, and desired retirement age – to name just a few.
The more specific these goals are the more impact they will have. Having a purpose for each dollar will take the guesswork out of managing money. You will have already decided on your plan.
A common point of contention is luxury spending, and more specifically when one spouse spends more than the other.
If one spouse is being cautious with their spending and the other is not, resentment will build very quickly.
That being said, each spouse should have money to spend on the things they enjoy. Decide on a certain amount that each person will get every month to spend on these interests.
The amounts should be the same for each spouse – unless there is an agreed upon difference in hobbies/likes. Having these amounts determined will take the resentment out of the others spouse’s spending.
It will be liberating to know that you have your amount and they have theirs. With it being equitable, it won’t matter to you how they spend their money – at least it shouldn’t!
The amounts should be examined carefully to make sure it doesn’t hinder your progress with your other goals. As your finances improve so should how much you spend on the things you like to do. This can be a significant motivator for improving your financial situation.
When asked how much money is needed for retirement most people have no idea. We tend to go through our working career unsure of what target we should be aiming for.
Here is a simple retirement calculator to help you gauge how much you might need. You can experiment with how early you want to retire, monthly income at retirement, and when your retirement will run out.
This retirement calculators will help you determine if you are on track with your goals or if changes need to be made. It will help you be realistic with when you can retire and what income to expect.
The good news is if you don’t like what you see you are in control of how you respond.
When you are trying to determine how much income you will need to retire you won’t have the same expenses you have now.
Your goal should be zero debt at retirement (we will discuss what debt can be considered productive debt in a future post). This means you may not need as much to live as you do now.
Many calculators won’t consider other incomes such as social security, pensions, etc. Personally, I don’t factor in social security when determining what I will need to retire because of the uncertainties surrounding that social program.
I don’t share this to be a fearmonger. If we plan for something that is out of our control we may set ourselves up for disappointment.
I don’t want to plan on something that could go away. This would leave you short of your retirement goal. Better to be more conservative and have more than you need.
Having a retirement goal helps couples determine if they are on track – otherwise you are shooting in the dark. Your monthly financial management should point back to retirement and how you are doing to prepare.
Making More Money
In my opinion earning more income is not spoken of often enough in the personal finance field. The path of least resistance is usually to cut spending. Because making money seems harder we just cut and cut and cut until there is nothing left.
What about making more money?
We should also be focusing on our income. This will help us think more from the abundance mindset and less from the scarcity.
Are we improving our value daily so we can make more money at our jobs? Are we working for an employer who recognizes our value?
There are many resources available to help you with your income goals. Many of these can be found online. A few to consider are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s), trade schools, and the Kahn Academy – just to name a few.
These online resources have material in almost any field. You can use it to expand your knowledge in your current expertise or expand into other areas. The cool thing is that most of them are free – or very low cost compared to a university.
Another important avenue to consider is starting your own business, and especially an online one. If you are working 9-5, having an online business will allow you to do it at night, early in the morning or on the weekends.
A few avenues to consider: blogging, podcasting, drop-shipping products, online sales, and copywriting.
Whatever direction you want to focus, making more money is vital. You are going to be working those same hours either way, so you should focus on making as much as possible during that time. This will help you compound the growth of not only your money but also your abilities.
Having Fun with Your Money
You have heard me talk about this in the past. If your money management feels like drudgery you’ll likely give up all together.
If you are in a much bigger hole financially you will have a few years of tight living with many sacrifices – but this should be short-term and not the end goal.
Enjoying your money is an important part of life. We can’t assume we will have great health at retirement and be able to do all the things we have always dreamed of doing.
Amazing experiences need to be had along the way. Period.
For those who have kids, these years are some of the best years of life. If you are in a much better financial situation you can make the most of this time – without going into debt.
Some individuals may be okay with cutting out all of the fun and waiting for retirement. That is up to them. Personally, I feel like this mindset is one of scarcity.
There is no reason why you can’t have the things you want now while preparing for a secure retirement – especially if you avoid making large financial mistakes. If you enjoy your money while making financial progress you are more likely to be successful along the way.
I have seen many people quit because they forget to plan and view money management as punishment – focusing on what they can’t have instead of where it will get them. If this is the course you are on it is not sustainable.
It is so important to be in control of your finances. If you are unsure of what your financial picture looks like, now is the time to figure it out.
Most of the financial struggles we experience are because we don’t have a plan in place. This can cause undue pressures on our relationships. It not only affects marriage, but also the quality time we spend with others.
Your situation may not be as bad as you think it is – but even if it is, you are better of knowing exactly where you are than avoiding it. Eventually it will surface, so why not take care of it now?
Take the stress out of life by planning your financial future. Having your finances in order will alleviate some of the pressures associated with marriage and life.