Guest Op-Ed: Tips for a Financially Strong Marriage

Whether you are just starting to talk about getting engaged, are newlyweds, or have been happily married for many years, don’t cause more stress by avoiding one of the most important discussions to any relationship – finances.

Being financially compatible is an important component of a happy life together. According to a 2013 Kansas State University study, Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce, arguments about money are the top predictor of divorce.

If you are going to tie the knot, be ready to share some financial information with your significant other. Some things to keep in mind, no matter what stage of marriage you’re at, include:

  • Discuss Outstanding Debt: You will have many tough conversations with each other, both before and well after you get married. How many children you want, where you are going to live, what religious and political beliefs you might share – the list goes on. Right up there at the top should be finances.
    Being open and honest about your respective financial situations is important. If either of you has any outstanding debt, tell your significant other up-front so that nothing comes as a surprise years from now. When discussing any debt you have, try to create a plan around how you are going to work together to pay it off.
  • Set up a Joint Account: While many may find it important to maintain some separate accounts, for some expenses streamlining finances through a shared bank account can help limit potential controversy over earnings disparity, which can be a cause of stress in relationships and marriage.
    Before you open a joint account, decide together what sorts of expenses the funds in that account should be used for, and what are going to be ‘individual’ expenses to come from your own separate accounts.  Sharing expenses for certain items through one bank account makes it easier for funds to be used with the peace of mind that both parties contributed to a purchase or investment.
  • Build a Budget Together: According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Average Daily Spending, By Marital Status and Age, married couples reported an average daily spending of $102. But do you know where that money is going? Talking through your expenses with each other will help to prevent any surprises.
    Start by tracking each of your expenses independently. At the end of one month, sit down together and look at your spending and savings. Decide which items you need to prioritize and which you may want to cut back on. If you see some figures in your partner’s spending habits that upset you, now is the time to speak up.
    Once you’ve agreed upon how you should be allocating your funds, stick to the budget you’ve made. In a few months, sit down together again and see if you have stayed on track, or if the budget needs to be adjusted at all.
  • Set Shared Financial Goals: Setting financial goals is the first step to reaching them. Whether the goal is short-term – such as saving for a trip – or long-term, such as saving for a child’s education, it is important to discuss these objectives and agree upon a way to meet them.
    Two goals that should always be considered are emergency savings and retirement. Another goal that many married couples may need to prioritize is staying on top of mortgage payments to own their home eventually.

If you need help charting your financial future, consider sitting down together with a banking professional who can help you identify your financial goals and ways to work toward them.

By discussing and taking action on just these few financial items, you could be on your way to growing old together happily, while remaining financially sound.

Mayra DiRico is senior vice president/director of retail banking at Astoria Bank, a full-service community bank headquartered in Lake Success, N.Y., serving personal customers and businesses of all sizes throughout Long Island and the New York metropolitan area. 

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