Money, Money, Money:
Financial Difference in Marriage
By Lynn M. Griesemer
Did you know that finances is one of the top five areas in which couples run into problems? If you’ve been married for a while, you’re probably nodding your head right now. Regardless of level of wealth, the issue is that two people enter marriage with different experiences, philosophies and habits of saving and spending money. Each has a different relationship with money. Yes, relationship. What we think about money, how we feel about money and what we do with our money impacts the marital relationship.
Three main areas can cause conflict. The first: to which extent is one a spender or saver? One may be a frivolous spender, one may be overly frugal. One may adhere to a strict budget and one may be carefree. Couples quickly get into trouble when both are spenders and are living beyond their means. If two savers are married to each other, they may have a hefty bank account or savings for the future, while they do little with their discretionary income – no vacations, house in disrepair, no charitable giving, etc. A spender coupled with a saver might argue a lot, but there will be room for growth and change as the couple negotiate a new direction.
During the lifetime of a marriage, there will often be changes in spending habits, philosophies about money and income situations. During the early years, the stress might involve college debt, a new car, new home or children. Later, the wife might drop out of the workforce to raise children for long periods of time or one spouse might lose a job and accept less income at another job. Retirement brings new adjustments and focus on money. The many, long earning years have come to an end and the couple will have to estimate how long they might live and make arrangements and possibly radical adjustments in their living or spending habits.
The third area of finances can be considered “autonomy.” Each individual had the freedom to do what he or she wanted prior to marriage, perhaps with no budget, accountability or responsibility to another person. Marriage marks the transition from individual to team. Some might not experience discomfort until the joint account is nearly empty or the family is expanding with the same amount of income coming in. Those who marry older, enter a second marriage, or have a much larger wealth base than their partner would benefit from discussing philosophies and intentions before getting married. There is no right or wrong, but high communication and agreement are important.
Some people consider separate accounts as a way to enjoy autonomy and control over individual finances. It works well when each spouse knows and agrees that this is a preferable way to manage money. Those who marry later in life, with several years spent in the workforce would benefit from having a financial planner before getting married. There are more complexities.
Separate accounts can be liberating for couples who differ in philosophies. I have friends who’ve been happily married for over 40 years. They follow a budget, and would be considered savers. In order to avoid being critical of each other about certain purchases, there is a set amount that goes into each account monthly. She has no right to criticize when he purchases yet another wrench for his workshop or she buys a doll for her collection. In fact, they are supportive of each other and he once made a beautiful display case (and I bet he used the wrench)!
Regarding separate accounts: If the intent is to keep secrets, to be selfish (and avoid sharing), or to be protective in case of divorce, I would suggest the couple examine their faith in marriage. If there are secrets going on because one is a big spender and wants to have an account with large amounts of money stashed away, then the issue of trust is shaky in the relationship. There is difference of opinion on that topic, but I am in favor of a married couple as a team and having joint accounts, joint property, etc. If there are separate accounts, then I would hope that there is high communication, honesty, agreement and acceptance.
Separate accounts could mean separate decisions. I suggest that couples discuss and then decide together about major purchases. Seven years into my marriage, we moved from a small townhouse to a spacious home. It was twice the size, felt empty to me, and needed furniture. We had been in the house for three months and I was tired of hearing echoes throughout the house. My husband did not care about shopping for furniture, but it was becoming a priority for me. One day, I decided I would go and buy some furniture as a birthday gift for him. He was surprised to arrive home from work and see two sofa sets, a dining room table and a few other items. I thought he would be impressed, but he sat down and the couches were not the best choice for his height. The furniture was within our budget, but it was a major purchase in which he should have been involved.
Whether spender or saver, joint accounts or separate accounts, couples should discuss major purchases, have an approach or plan for the present and future and understand that finances will change throughout the course of their marriage.
www.marriagecoachlynn.com – See if Marriage Coaching might be something you’re interested in. The concept of coaching is similar to a personal trainer for the body and is a way to boost your marital health by becoming stronger.
www.blogtalkradio.com/marriagecoachlynn -Weekly internet radio program that encourages and supports lifelong, happy marriage. Topics for the month of September: Continued discussion on husband and wife differences in sexual desire; interview with author Lesli Doares, “Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: The Complete Guide to Building Your Happily Ever After.” http://blueprintforalastingmarriage.com/
Please add “Reenergize Your Marriage in 21 Days” to your personal library. You won’t be disappointed!
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/59883 Here’s what others are saying about the book:
“If couples adopt just one exercise, they can benefit from this program. Whatever you want to change in your marriage, find an exercise to repeat. Stick with it until it’s automatic. Certain behaviors elicit positive behaviors.” –Kristine
“My husband and I really liked the recreational exercises. Thank you.” –Julie
Correction to last month’s newsletter: Replace the fourth word “need” with “not” in the opening article “Newly Married” (7th paragraph, 5th sentence). It should read as follows: The goal is not to restore marriage to the newlywed state, but I’d like to see marriages progress to a point of a deeper love over the years.