Money and Marriage: A Guide to Finding Common Ground

Most marriage statistics claim a divorce rate as high as 50%, with arguments over finances a leading reason cited for divorce. Financial stress, money incompatibility and different financial goals are all reasons couples fight over finances. If money has been a source of conflict in your relationship, maybe it’s time to try something different.

Strategy 1: Don’t take it out on your spouse.

A February 2015 study by the American Psychological Association found that almost ¾ of Americans experience financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly ¼ are experiencing extreme financial stress. Additionally, money is still considered a socially taboo subject, so you probably aren’t comfortable talking about it with family or friends. That means any stress will be directed at your spouse or partner.

The key to combating money stress is identifying the source of the stress and finding a solution. A little rational thought, perspective, and planning can go a long way towards easing the stress without dragging your spouse down.

Strategy 2: Find common ground.

Money compatibility, or having the same beliefs about money as your significant other, is a bit of a unicorn. It’s very unlikely that you and your spouse are going to be in total agreement about money and finances. If you are, good for you! But for everyone else, don’t lose hope. Finding SOME common ground is essential, though. The mistake many couples make is focusing all their energy on the differences in their beliefs or values rather than trying to find common ground.

Find 30 minutes and try this exercise:

  1. Make Lists — Sit down with your spouse. Both of you write down your top five money beliefs or values. Then, write down two money habits you admire in your partner and one money habit you would like to change about your partner. Share your lists with each other.
  2. Find Common Beliefs/Values — Take a look at each of your top five and talk about them. Chances are, there are some common themes, so make those beliefs and values your common ground. At a minimum, find one to three you can agree on to be the basis for your common ground.
  3. Mentor Each Other — Talk about your money admirations. If you admire a habit in your partner, you probably would like to develop that habit in yourself. Agree to mentor each other for one of the habits you admire. Develop a plan for how you will measure success, and revisit it after a few months.
  4. Take the Bad with the Good — Last, talk about the one money habit you would most like to change in your partner. This may be a touchy conversation, so don’t force the discussion and create an argument. We can’t make others change, so understand that you may have to learn to accept some bad for the greater good.

Strategy 3: Make a financial goal together.

This is pretty straight forward. Even if you have made goals together in the past, like to buy a house or save for a vacation, set a new goal together. It can be a simple goal, like setting a budget for holiday spending or finding a strategy to cut $100 of monthly expenses to put in a shared savings account. Or, it can be more complex, like retirement planning or college savings for the kids. Whatever your goal, it has to be important to both of you and mutually beneficial. Be sure to set milestones for reviewing your goals and celebrate together when there’s progress.

Most money arguments aren’t a result of a lack of money, but rather a lack of common ground when it comes to how money is spent or saved. He’s a spender, she’s a saver. He’s a penny pincher and she spends frivolously. Whatever your habits are now, work on these strategies together and don’t let financial woes hurt your relationship. And remember, should you need advice; Lincoln Savings Bank has financial professionals that are here to help guide you and your financial future.

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