We’ve all heard that money is one of the biggest issues in marriages today and also that money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce. On this weekend’s San Franscisco Chronicle, financial writer James McWhinney shares “The Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues.”
It’s a good article that’s well worth reading, especially by newlyweds and couples who are having money problems in the marriage. We’ve posted some tips on some of these issues before, but I wanted to share three of these money issues that you might not have thought about or may not know how to handle.
1. The Power Play
McWhinney explains that when one spouse makes more money than the other or one works and the other doesn’t, a power play can seep into the marriage, even though it may be quite unintentional.
When these situations are present, the money earner (or the one who makes the most money) often wants to dictate the spending priorities. Although there may be some rationale behind this idea, it is still important both partners cooperate as a team.”
McWhillen also offers this advice: “One solution that has demonstrated success is for the higher-earning spouse to delegate all spending decision to the lower-earning spouse. It takes a certain personality to be able to make the decision to give up power, but if you can do it, it may be a sound path to peace.”
2. Your Extended family
Even if you’ve agreed on how to spend and save your money within your household, family loyalties and family obligations may present a problem.
Her mom wants a vacation in Vegas. His parents need a new car. Her deadbeat brother can’t make the rent. His sister’s husband lost his job. Now one spouse is writing a check and the other wants to know why that money wasn’t used to address needs right here at home or fund a vacation for ‘us.’
Our advice is to make an agreement that while you both want to help your families should they ever need it, any financial help will have to be discussed (and agreed on) beforehand. This doesn’t mean you need permission to buy your brother lunch, but you should discuss giving anyone help over a certain dollar amount, depending on your financial situation.
3. Pre-Marital Debt
McWhinney advises that bringing debt into the marriage can cause some real problems. This is especially common now that many people are getting married later in life or remarrying.
If one partner has more debt than the other, or worse yet one partner is debt free, the sparks can start to fly when discussions about income, spending, and debt servicing come up.”
Our suggestion is to discuss openly any debt that you’ll be bringing with you into the marriage. If you’re already married and struggling with one partner’s debt, discuss how you can approach it as a team, rather than as two separate financial entities.
Money problems are a real minefield for marriages today, but they don’t have to cause irreparable damage. Working through money issues can strengthen your marriage by building teamwork and a sense of unity.