Credit Counseling Can Save Your Marriage
6 Financial No-nos for Couples
For years, we’ve heard the statistics—the media has reported that half of all marriages end in divorce. Although this may not be as accurate as we once thought (new information proves that the data was very skimpy), the percentage probably isn’t that high. What everyone will agree upon, however, is that it’s still too high, which begs the question “Why?”
Studies show that money is the number one reason why couples argue and even divorce. Some argue more often than others, but we’re talking about big money issues, like one spouse taking money meant for the mortgage payment and buying a luxurious leather coat with it, or toll of stress on the couple from unrelenting collection calls.
Is money the root of all evil? Considering it’s the number one reason for divorce, it makes sense, but the answer is “no.” This saying is often misquoted. The quote is, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Timothy 6:10. Desire for money is a necessary thing when we play by the rules and of course, we need money for food, clothing, and shelter for family and ourselves. The problems arise when that desire turns to a craving, greed, and selfishness within a marriage.
Is there a way to keep you marriage safe? If you already have money problems, or are headed in that direction, is there a way to financial freedom? Communication, of course, is helpful, but couples need more than talk to resolve or head-off money problems. Credit counselors deal with couples everyday to help set them on the right path. A credit counselor at Element can offer debt management strategies or tips for avoiding debt altogether to every married couple and to those getting ready to tie the knot. Here are six common financial mistakes couples make and how to avoid them that will hopefully keep you out of debt or help you become debt free:
- Merging the Money. To merge or not to merge. You may wonder if it’s better to merge everything you have and earn into joint accounts, or should you keep your individual accounts. Merging is a good thing, unless one spouse comes into the marriage with a huge debt load. In general, it’s not good to have the finances completely separate, however, a joint checking can be tricky, even with the most attentive couples—you don’t want to get stung with overdraft fees because your spouse used the debit card for gas. The ideal way is to have some autonomy for practical purposes and joint accounts for your united front.
- Dealing with Debt. If you’re in debt, the best approach is to unite and pay it off together. When you can’t figure it out on your own, credit counseling is a great resource and can provide you with realistic budgeting strategies to help you become debt free as quickly as possible, without any late fees. Remember, “united we stand, divided we fall.”
- Spending Habits. Typically, one spouse ends up labeled as a “spender” and is blamed for all financial problems. The flip side is that the other spouse is the “enabler.” Typically, if someone keeps track, it is found that both men and women spend about the same, but they spend it differently. Men go for big ticket items like plasma TV’s, while women usually spend on family expenses—food and clothes. The solution is to stop blaming and sit down to develop a budget to see where the money goes and how much. It can be a real eye opener.
- Got Money Secrets? At one time or another husbands and wives have lied to their spouse about the price of something they bought, but it may or may not be a problem, depending on your financial situation. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to come up with a specific dollar amount that each spouse can spend up to without consulting the other. Both spouses need to agree on the amount and base it upon your budget. For example, you may decide for purchases above $50, you need to consult your spouse. Big financial secrets can potentially wreck marriage. Trying to hide the fact that you owe thousands of dollars in back taxes will eventually catch up with you. You’re better off coming clean and dealing with it. Squirreling away thousands or losing it at the casinos will come back to haunt you.
- Investments for the Future. Studies show men and women are very different when it comes to their risk tolerance. Men are usually more willing to take financial risks than women, but arguing about it will get you nowhere, nor will not investing out of fear. It’s better to outline your investment goals and make decisions according to your age and realistic investment strategies with checks and balances.
- Emergency Fund. Not planning for emergencies is a big mistake. Just because you have a great job doesn’t mean you can’t lose your job. Keeping three to six months worth of living expenses can keep you afloat. When couples don’t have money set aside for an unexpected emergency, they tend to panic, which leads to poor decisions. The best solution is to talk to your spouse and come to an agreement as to how much needs to be saved.