Money problems, specifically, the inability to communicate well on financial issues, is one of the main causes of conflict among married couples.
I saw this recently at a meeting in my financial planning practice where the husband literally put his hand in front of his wife’s mouth when I asked her a question about their finances. While this may be an extreme example of poor communication between spouses, unfortunately, miscommunication and not letting your spouse voice an opinion are not uncommon behaviors.
Couples who have money problems tend not to communicate well over financial issues. Either they will end up fighting about money, or alternatively, they may avoid discussing the finances at all, and even keep financial secrets from each other.
To prevent financial infidelity and other money problems from arising, learn how to talk about money openly and calmly with your spouse. The four tactics below can help:
- Don’t believe that you are better with money than your spouse
Studies show that many people think they are more equipped to handle money than their spouse, or that their spouse is an impulsive spender. This leads to distrust and tension. Once you understand that financial education is easy to learn, and bad habits can be rectified, partners can be on equal financial footing, and it will be easier for you to discuss money issues.
- Talk about your goals
Instead of talking about your spouse’s spending habits in a dispiriting manner, talk about the joint goals you want to accomplish together. Find your common interests. Write them down, and work as a team to accomplish them.
- Develop rules about how much money to give your children
Decide on a policy together for giving children money. Make sure you both agree on the terms so that one parent won’t secretly give more money to a child than the other one. It’s fine to help your kids out financially, but your kids need to fend for themselves too. Just like a parent shouldn’t give away the solution to a chess puzzle his child is working on, but instead let him find the answer himself, it’s OK to let your kids learn to take care of their financial needs.
- Decide on major financial decisions together
While it is reasonable to expect to make minor financial decisions, such as what to buy for lunch, on your own, important decisions should be made together.
Agree that you will make all money decisions above a certain level jointly. For example, you may agree to discuss any expense above $100. This way, you won’t feel “watched over” every time you walk into the supermarket, yet you also won’t need to worry about your spouse making large expenses that don’t fit your budget.
Positive communication among spouses is one of the most important aspects of a happy and healthy relationship. If you suspect your spouse has financial secrets that s/he isn’t sharing with you, click here for tips on how to handle financial infidelity. Good communication can prevent, and solve, many money problems.
Douglas Goldstein, co-author of Rich As A King:How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You A Grandmaster of Investing, is an avid chess fan, international investment advisor and Certified Financial Planner (CFP®).