A September New York Times article argued that the key to “wedded bliss” is a shared viewpoint on money matters and I couldn’t agree more with the basic premise. I’m sure you all know couples who couldn’t be more different: she likes Prada and drives a shiny black Lexus, while he dresses like he just returned from Woodstock and eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches 6 nights a week. Big differences in marriage (whether they be about raising kids, time spent with family, or money matters) often lead to big arguments and, at times, divorce. So, it’s vital that successful partners have the same basic goals in life and can identify with the same “value proposition” (marketing speak for what makes a product special).
In terms of couples with successful personal finance lives, they often follow a few basic tenants:
1. Communication. Do you and your spouse talk often about important issues? Do you talk like adults about money, the kids, and how annoying certain family members can be at times? If you don’t lay things out and speak frankly, say, about how much money you’d like to be investing each month, then you’re both not communicating.
2. Money goals. Do you both have money goals? Every couple should have similar thoughts on: how much money to save, what makes up healthy monthly, household, expenditures, how much to spend on Christmas gifts, how many lessons or after school activates the kids truly need, etc. Simply put, your money goals need to have alignment.
3. Process. Do you and your wife have a plan in place for who is in charge of investments, monthly bills, home maintenance, etc.? You can’t reach any personal finance goals unless you have a plan in place with dates and who is in charge of getting things done. In some ways, a marriage needs to be run like a corporation (sorry to all you romantic types!) and you can’t have one employee doing all the work while the guy in Accounting sits on his butt all day.
4. Have Fun and Make Sure Your Love Evolves. It’s always a good idea to invest in your love. This means going out and doing special things on occasion or treating your spouse to a gift or a dozen roses. Being cheap with your husband or wife is not a good move. If your budget allows for a yearly vacation, maybe without the kids, then go and have fun (your marriage and life will be revitalized when you return).
5. Independence. I know some couples who are tied to the hip both in terms of finances and friends/social activities/etc. and this is not good. I believe that married couples need to preserve some individuality, including attending events with close friends or just going out for a drink with a college buddy on occasion (it’s ok to have some differences in your social lives). On the money side, it’s also important for both partners to have their own spending money (just as long as one partner is not abusing the privilege by making purchases from the web each night, for example.).