IN the hustle and bustle of managing a family together, couples often neglect to have serious conversations about their household’s finances.
Finding a common ground on money matters should be the top priority in a relationship as many couples are unprepared for the ways a marriage changes their feelings of financial independence – and how each spouse relates to money.
Here are the three important financial discussions couples should make to pave the road to better household finances and healthier relationships.
1. What are our financial histories?
Married couples probably have a basic understanding of how each spouse manages money. But do you know your spouse’s tolerance when it comes to household debt?
How much is too much when it comes to taking on debts? What about your spouse’s risk tolerance level in investing? How much risk is your spouse willing to take and what is your joint risk tolerance?
Are you all planning to have children? Would you like them to earn their own way or prefer to give them every advantage? What about your spouse’s spending habits? Do you like to live below your means or would you like to spend freely? And more importantly, why does your spouse feel the way he or she feels about money issues?
Couples may have different money beliefs and values – often carried from childhood – that influence how they think about money as adults, and it can be difficult to change them. When a couple makes an effort to understand the stories behind their spouse’s financial beliefs, things will start to make more sense and help them face the major decisions ahead together.
2. What are our expectations?
Setting expectations in marriages are often overlooked, assumed or taken for granted. As a married couple, you are sharing your life, your home and your future with your spouse. Are your financial and life goals congruent? Are you transparent with each other about these goals?
It is essential that you share and discuss each other’s financial and life goals, and then both of you as a couple agree on which financial goals you want to work toward individually, and together. This way both spouses are on the same page about the bigger financial goals and will be invested in playing their part in working toward these goals.
Good communication is an important part of all relationships and an essential part of any healthy partnership, especially when it comes to money matters. Having regular conversations about each other’s expectations is important for developing and maintaining peace and happiness in relationships.
3. How should we structure our household finances?
To combine or not to combine? That’s one of the money conundrums couples faces.
Some couples pool all their income together and have a joint bank account where they share their bills and expenses – either equally or based on an agreed percentage – and to save up for shared goals.
Others maintain separate accounts and thus divide financial responsibility. Others agree to a specific account structure such as an allowance system or a combination of joint and separate accounts.
Although there is no one right account structure, what I have learnt from working with couples is that those who work together on their financial goals are happier with their long-term outcomes.
While many do not want to think about worst-case scenarios, both spouses need to be knowledgeable about the household’s finances so that in the event something happens to one spouse, the other can handle the finances confidently.
We have heard time and time again that the health of a relationship relies on honest and open communication. To make your household’s financial conversations more effective and meaningful, speak to a life-centered financial planner.
They can help both of you understand where your money beliefs come from and how they have developed, help discover what matters most to both of you and make sure that both get the best life possible with the money you have. – Oct 9, 2022
Dr Selina Dang, CFP is a licensed financial planner with Coreplus Advisory Sdn Bhd and a certified member of the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia (FPAM).
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.