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When it comes to whether you and your betrothed will remain together until death do you part, it’s largely about the Benjamins.
According to a study from Kansas State University, arguments about money are the leading predictor of whether a marriage will end in divorce.
Of course, there are no guarantees, but this suggests you may be able to increase your chances of marital bliss by avoiding common money mistakes.
Following are seven common money mistakes that couples make.
1. Thinking your spouse’s debt is not your problem
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Today, men and women marry later in life than they did in earlier generations. That means both people in the new union have had plenty of opportunities to rack up a little debt, whether it’s from student loans, credit cards or a shiny new car.
Legally, you are not responsible for paying off the debt that your spouse accrued before your marriage. However, you are not being particularly smart — let alone nice — if you decide there is no way your income will be used to pay off Mr. or Ms. Right’s debt.
Ideally, you will have discussed this matter before your wedding day and done your best to clean up bad debt in advance. But if you find yourself married to someone with a boatload of debt, it’s in your best interest to help pay it down as quickly as possible.
2. Failing to join finances
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Even if you want to maintain separate accounts for spending money, you should have a joint account for combined expenses. After all, you are one household now. You’re both enjoying the roof over your heads and the heated air in the winter.
Having a single budget ensures there is no resentment about who has more money or who gets stuck with a specific bill. Dump all your money into a joint account, write out a budget that pays all the shared bills, and divvy up the extra for spending money.
3. Not having spending rules in place
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Another benefit of having a unified household budget is that it gives you an opportunity to discuss ground rules for how to manage money together as a couple.
Ground rules will vary from couple to couple, but you and your spouse should be on the same page when it comes to answering these questions:
- How much discretionary money can one spouse spend without conferring with the other spouse?
- What discussion needs to take place before one spouse opens a credit cardaccount or takes out a loan?
- If there are kids in the family, do they get an allowance? If so, how is that doled out?
- How will money discussions take place? Will they be scheduled at regular times, or just on an as-needed basis?
- What happens with bonuses or unexpected windfalls?
Having ground rules in place will help you avoid stressful situations. Go ahead and write them down so there is no confusion about what was said and agreed upon.
4. Keeping secrets and hiding money
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In a 2016 survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education, 42 percent of Americans admitted to financial infidelity. That could mean they’re opening accounts without their partner’s knowledge, hiding purchases or squirreling away money on the side.
If you want your marriage to have staying power, stop the secrets. The survey found 75 percent of those touched by financial deception say the lying has affected their relationship.
What’s more, hiding money can signal a deeper problem. If you don’t feel as though you can be upfront with your spouse about finances, you need to do some soul-searching and address that problem.
5. Leaving bills in the hands of one person
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It’s harder to have money secrets if you work together to pay the bills.
On a practical level, it may make sense to have one person writing the checks and managing the online bill-paying schedule. But that doesn’t mean the other spouse should be left out in the cold.
Couples may find a monthly meeting is a good time to review account balances and look ahead for irregular expenses. This can also be a time to tweak savings goals and re-evaluate spending habits.
If your spouse bristles at the thought of being involved in the budgeting process, at least print up account information and hand it to him or her, along with a monthly snapshot of your current budget and spending.
6. Neglecting to plan for the long term
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It is important to discuss long-range needs such as college, retirement and long-term care.
Failing to do so might not end your marriage, but it could seriously alter it. There may be no retirement home in Florida or no RV in which to travel the country. Without proper preparation, you may find your golden years together are significantly different from what you envisioned on your wedding day.
7. Letting emotions overtake money decisions
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Money can be a highly emotional topic, and the worst mistake you can make is to turn your family finances into a weapon to be used against your spouse.
Yes, he may have blown the last of the spending money on a video game. But running out to retaliate with your own shopping spree not only damages your relationship, it’s also a dumb financial move.
Another no-no is shaming your spouse over money spent, or a lack of income earned. These sorts of behaviors cause resentment and breed mistrust, both of which can be the downfall of your marriage.
(If you have trouble with shopping, check out: “18 Simple Ways to Slam the Brakes on Impulse Buys.”)
Treat your spouse with dignity and respect. You can’t control your spouse, but responding with grace and compassion may provide the grease needed to open a constructive dialogue.