After you’ve exchanged vows, danced your booties off, and stashed the top of the cake in the freezer, the next big thing to figure out is how you want to handle your married finances.
Money is the number one thing that couples fight about, and it’s the number two reason for divorce in the US.
We don’t want dinero to make you say bye bye to your partner. You want to make sure that you find a financial system that works for both of you in the partnership. Money, much like marriage, should be a team sport. If one person doesn’t like the system or the financial arrangement, it’s not going to stand the test of time.
Luckily, married finances are not a one size fits all sort of thing! Each couple can make their own choices, and set up their money in a way that fits their lifestyle best.
And creating a financial system for your household is about more than just hard numbers. You each need to make space for the financial history that your partner is bringing to the partnership. Learning how to communicate well about money is just as important as the actual tools you use to manage your money.
Married Finances: How to approach the conversation
Let’s be real; a lot of us have a lot of emotions when it comes to money.
Maybe it’s shame around our debt, or pride in how we’ve grown our investments over time. That means the first thing we need to do for our married finances is to make space for those emotions and history.
A great idea for couples is to find some time to sit down together and work through a few short money exercises and questions. Establishing health communication early is a benefit that keeps paying off!
So make a nice cheese plate and get into it! Sit down and ask each other things like:
What’s your biggest current stressor around money?
What’s your biggest financial goal?
Our couples money workbook has an exact roadmap to follow to get to know your partner’s current feelings and systems about money. We provide exercises for y’all to work through as a unit to get on the same money page. It’s designed to establish healthy and happy money communication rules.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to implement actual systems to handle your money! We talked to two different couples about how they handle their married finances to help you find a system that works for your own love life.
Misty and Matthew
Misty (she/her) Matthew (he/him)
Misty and Matthew have been together for almost 18 years and married for 12. They live in Boston, a high cost of living area. As homeowners and parents, they have a lot on their financial plate.
Misty says “We both like to spend money but do so in a very different way. He spends money on projects and on the home. Every nice thing that we have in this place is thanks to him! My spending is usually on internal projects like courses, education and my business. We have 2 children that are 9 and 7 and he does the majority of the shopping for them. The kids dress 10x better than we do.”
How do you currently manage your money together? Do you have joint bank accounts? Do you have joint credit cards? What brought you to this decision?
“We got married when I was in my late 20’s and he was in his 30’s. Neither one of us wanted to combine our bank accounts entirely since we were so used to having our own money and being able to do what we wanted with it.“
Misty and Matthew found a way to combine money as their lives changed, while also respecting each other’s financial preferences.
“When we got the mortgage we opened a joint bank account (checking and high yield savings) which we both contribute to. The high yield savings is where we decided to put money for our joint goals . This money comes from work bonuses. He likes to see money add up in a savings account and I prefer to invest as much as I can so this allows us to both do what makes us comfortable personally while covering our joint expenses and emergency fund.”
We opened a joint credit card for some of our routine expenses like groceries, kids activities and online shopping for the security and cash back perks.
Of course, combining finances is a work in progress.
“My blindspot would be spending too much time thinking about the future. Most of my relatives are alive and well so picturing a very long life is easy for me to do. I’ve also seen what happens when you don’t invest and have to live paycheck to paycheck later in life and want to avoid that. He tends to live for the moment since he has lost loved ones and knows that life can be short. Prioritizing the family, our home, having enough cash for him to feel comfortable and enough invested for me to feel comfortable works well for us.”
To bridge this gap, they’ve developed a strategy to help one another really visualize where the other one is standing when it comes to money goals.
“During the pandemic I started to visualize us owning rental property in VT. He is more pragmatic and didn’t know if this was even an option for us. He is also more nostalgic and had a lot of good memories of VT from his childhood. Since I’m a CFP I have access to some pretty amazing software that allows me to show him what a financial decision will look like before we make it. When I make a good enough case he is willing to go all in.”
Misty and Matthew have a base of good communication around money to stand on as their lives change. Since they understand how each other’s brains work when it comes to money, they can both set boundaries and make space for each other.
DaniellA and Ally
Daniella )they/them) and Ally (she/her) live on the other side of the USA, in Port Orchard, Washington. They’ve been together for seven years and married for five.
“Neither one of us is necessarily the “spender” or the “saver”. We are an odd blend of the two where I end up spending on certain things like food and experiences and my wife like collectibles. With saving, I am the one to quickly hoard money for investments, retirement, and emergencies while my wife is the one to save more for life planning stuff like upcoming trips, surgeries, etc. She is the planner while I am the reactive one,” says Daniella.
Daniella says that they and Ally have also experienced enough financial trauma in their past that working on financial communication was paramount to the relationship.
“We also have had our fair share of money trauma where we have really tried to work to get to a place where we learn from the other and help the other one out like “hey can we transfer x amount to our brokerage or do we have something coming up that I need to put some of that money in too?” they say.
Danielle and Ally currently have joint bank accounts for their main checking and savings. For them, married finances means joint finances.
“We have 2 credit cards that are joint. We came to this decision when we first got married knowing that people combine finances after marriage. We combined mostly because of the norm but also, it made bills easier for us. Also, we both have side hustles that we have separate business bank accounts for. We do “owner’s pay” transfers from those into our joint personal account.”
Daniella personally entered the marriage knowing that their background of trauma and their mental health was impacting they way they saw and handled money.
“Trauma was the number one blind spot in my case. I was always beating myself up over purchases always thinking of ways we could reduce spending. However, I have ADD, PTSD, and am bipolar. All of this absolutely affects how I spend, save, and earn money and my own relationship with money. I get manic with money and my relationship with it.”
“Then on the days where I go back and try to address our budget, I immediately blame myself. In the past I also took a stab at controlling her spending. I was trying to find ways to blame her when I myself was doing no better. We are so unapologetically open now about how we spend, save, and earn our money. We’ve both been to therapy and became trauma informed about how we treat ourselves and each other when money is involved.”
Daniella and Ally are a perfect example of a couple that have done the work to examine their own financial emotions, and worked on developing a communication style that allows them to thrive together.
In fact, Daniella says, “That open communication has become such a great habit that I am so grateful we now have. If you told me seven years ago that I need to get trauma informed with myself & my finances before getting married, I would have looked at you like you were trying to give an MLM pitch. But I think that is something no one talks about and is absolutely necessary. I think that every married person who is trying to better their relationship with money, should recognize their trauma. Give yourself a break. It isn’t all do or die, you have to deal with you first before you deal with your money.”
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