When it comes to navigating finances as a couple, it’s smart to “talk early and talk often,” says Megan Ford, a licensed marriage and family therapist and president of the Financial Therapy Association. That isn’t always easy, though, as partners may have different money personalities, priorities and dreams. Here are three tips from therapists and other experts:
No. 1: Don’t sweat the differences. Different approaches to money don’t in and of themselves spell doom for a couple, but problems arise when differences get swept under the rug and left to fester. The way around that is to explore each other’s money values. Maybe your spouse likes to splurge because his parents splurged on him, and he equates lavish spending with love. Understanding your spouse’s point of view will help you avoid conflict and learn to compromise.
No. 2: Communicate regularly. Couples should make a point to talk about money when there’s not a problem, like a surprise medical bill or mounting credit card debt, forcing the issue. Too often, “people wait until the tension is high and then explode,” says Mary Gresham, a psychologist in Atlanta. Instead, schedule regular money chats once a week or once a month to take stock of household money matters and divide up responsibilities.
No. 3: Don’t keep secrets. Part of regular communication is consulting one another on big purchases. The definition of “big” is up to you—it could be $200 or $2,000, say—but whatever it is, agree to talk before making a purchase that exceeds it. “Money secrets eat at the trust of our relationship,” says Terri Orbuch, a researcher and therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great.
Share your story and advice
How are you managing your finances as a couple? Do you have any tips on communicating and compromising that we didn’t mention?
For a story in Money’s upcoming retirement guide, we’re looking to talk with couples who have worked together to make smart moves on the road to retirement—or who are still wrestling with how to meld “his” and “hers” into a single plan for later life.
We’re interested in hearing from couples no matter where they are in the process, from young families who have figured out how to shoehorn retirement saving into their budgets to people who have made firm plans for one or both of them to leave full-time work in the next few years. Will you share your stories and advice with other Money readers?
Use the form below to tell us a little about yourselves and where you are in the journey to retirement, or email reporter Kerri Anne Renzulli at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please tell us the biggest challenge you face in planning for retirement or the single best piece of advice you’d give other couples based on your own experience. We’ll be in touch for more information if we’re considering your story for publication. We look forward to learning your secrets of successful spousal money management!
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