The first step in understanding and communicating your different perspectives about money as a married couple is deciding upon a money management system. Coming up with a system of managing your money that you both agree with can be a challenge. It may bring up the issues of unequal assets, debts, and differences in your philosophies about spending, saving, and so on.
For instance, Karen, 47, and Mark, 48, have been married thirteen years and have two teenagers. Until recently, most of their arguments have been about money, specifically how they spend it and how to get out of debt.
During our couples counseling sessions, Karen talked about wanting to have her own checking account so that she could manage her own money, yet being willing to pay her share of expenses for the whole family. Fortunately, Mark agreed that this plan would work for him too as long as they were open about their finances.
As a result, we discussed three money management systems and Karen and Mark realized that adopting a three pot system, described below, would help them share resources but give them each more control over their spending.
The Three Economic Systems
One pot: All of a couple’s money is combined into one checking and savings account. This includes debts, expenses, and both partner’s incomes. Couples literally pool their financial resources together.
Two pot: Couples keep their incomes, payments, bills, and debts in two separate savings accounts and handle all child-rearing and household expense on a fifty-fifty basis.
Three pot: Each partner handles personal expenses of themselves, while both contribute to a third account that’s used for the upkeep of the entire family (mortgage or rent, food, household repairs, insurance, vacations, etc.).
Truth be told, one money management strategy is not necessarily better than the other; it is really a matter of what couples are comfortable with. Financial expert, Kailey Hagen advises couples to choose a money management system that works for them. Whether couples decide to co-mingle their finances, maintain a joint account for household expenses while keeping separate accounts for personal expenses, or operate independently with totally separate finances, it is important to approach finances with a solid plan.
Having an open, honest conversation about financial goals as well as your fears about fiscal responsibility, will keep you grounded in the trust that grows out of a shared understanding. It’s surprising how common financial infidelity has become: Seven in 10 people said they’ve committed at least one act of “financial infidelity,” according to The Ascent’s recent survey.
Becoming More Transparent About Money
Further, recently married couples should be upfront about their debt, assets, feelings about money, and fully disclose their financial history. When entering a marriage, spouses often bring financial baggage that can be embarrassing and difficult to discuss. But part of supporting each other for the long-haul means being transparent about pre-existing financial difficulties. In short, laying all your cards on the table and approaching any stresses as a team, will spell success.
You might have a different list of financial priorities than your spouse and this can increase conflict. Hagen advises couples to prioritize saving goals together. Developing these shared goals and building a sense of trust around saving for the future, will spare many couples from the strain that comes from managing money in a marriage.
Whether a couple is struggling to get out of debt, saving for something like a house or a child’s education, or socking away some money for a rainy-day fund, approaching your saving goals as a unit is central to cultivating and sustaining a happy home.
Learning to be more open and honest about money doesn’t start and end with a single conversation. Developing a viable management system, divulging any outstanding debts and financial obligations, and arriving at shared savings goals is all good and well.
In fact, the key to success when it comes to money management for coupes is being able to discuss your options openly and to come to an agreement or compromise that suits your personal and family objectives. Remember conversations about money are sensitive discussions that can trigger intense feelings and fears.
Be sure to tune into your partners dreams and fears and seek ways to manage differences and challenges, rather than debating who is right. Check in with each other regularly and use active listening skills. Try to understand your mate’s feelings behind his or her words. Asking open ended questions such as “Where do you see us living in 5-10 years?” can spark a productive conversation. It’s quite a hurdle to jump over and it’s a sign of success to have low conflict discussions about money.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry