Are you on the same page about your finances?

Almost half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. The number one reason given is disagreement about finances. It is quite common for couples to have different views on money and what they are trying to achieve. You don’t have to have the same approaches to money but you need to understand what each other want.

Talk about it

Subjects like where you are going to live or whether you want children will come up before you commit to each other. But how many couples talk about their long term financial plans and goals to ensure they are aligned? I would say very few.

It is common for couples to have different attitudes to money with one being a saver and the other being quite flaithiúlach with their money. This can lead to a lot of arguments as the saver thinks they are being preventing from building the nest egg that they want to build for the future. The spender views the saver as being tight with money.

That is why it is important that couples know what each other are trying to achieve.

Compromise

Just because one person has certain financial goals, it doesn’t mean that both of your have to go along with it. If you talk about what you both want to achieve, you can compromise. Going back to our saver and spender, the saver may agree to reach that goal of early retirement a bit later (so saving a bit less) while the spender may agree to start contributing to a pension plan (less income to spend). But this can only happen if there is communication between the couple and you know what each other are trying to achieve.

Know the risks

This is where things really blow up and things go from annoyance and frustrations to marriage breakdown. In a couple, one person normally takes the lead on finances (usually the male). The other person tends to have little or no interest in the financial side of things, “that’s their job”.

Taking on debt to grow your wealth is a big risk and it almost always to purchase property. Almost no investment properties pay for themselves when mortgage repayments, repairs and taxes on rental income are added. There is an annual cost to owning an investment property and it will come from your income.

Then there is the debt obligation that will last decades. If there is an issue in your work situaiton, you may be unable to pay the mortgage or the taxes to your Revenue, adding stress to your relationship.

There is a also the case of the amateur investor who strikes gold on a particular stock or sector (crypto anyone?), making massive profits and becoming wealthy, leading to overconfidence. Everyone likes to brag about their successes, so the other spouse is will know how wealthy they have become. Risk and return are related, so if you invest in a high risk asset such as crypto or even just one or two stocks, they can easily tumble in value too. But where people are quick to share stories of their gains, they are slow to share stories of losses.

Financial planning process

This is all why when we start the financial planning process with couples, I like to speak to the couple together. I can find out what money means to both people and it can also uncover where there are areas of tensions regarding finances. A lot of couples have never talked about what they are trying to achieve or what their goals are. The initial meeting with me can be the first time that a spouse finds out that their other half has aspirations to retire early or quit their current job and become an artist.

It is when both people are aware of what each other are trying to achieve that they can work together.

 

Steven Barrett

27 November 2023