When it comes to marriage and money, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that couples who fight about money an average of once a week are more than 30 percent likely to be destined for divorce. It seems that fights about finances are not only common but worse than fights about other subjects, more likely to end in bad language and broken dishes. A 2014 study by Money Magazine that polled 1,010 married adults ages 25 and over found that out of all the subjects couples tend to argue about–chores, quality time together, sex, snoring–money is the hot button most likely to cause disputes.
The Good News in All of This
It was a camp counselor who first introduced me to the strength available to us when we partner up: he picked up a stick and snapped it in two. Then he put those two sticks together and asked me to break it. I couldn’t do it because two sticks are stronger than one. Two heads on a problem are also better than one. Being married can lead to financial success and more riches.
Married couples who work together as true financial partners have also been shown to achieve greater financial success than single people. But this kind of financial harmony takes communicate about money not in general terms–like, You spend too much, or You should save more–but in specific terms that identify clear numbers and a plan.
Joint Accounts and Your Money
The subject of joint versus separate bank accounts often comes up in stable marriages when one spouse goes back to work after a time of absence. Take the case of Jason and Kat.
After taking maternity leave for a few years, Kat was excited to start earning a little money of her own again. Her income was substantially less than what Jason was making, but he wanted to put their paychecks together in one joint account. This is what they had always done, and he felt threatened by his wife’s desire to have her separate account. After all, he had been paying the bills for years. Kat said she would be happy to put some of her money towards the bills, but she wanted a portion that was all her own. That set Jason on edge. Was Kat trying to hide money? Did she not trust him?
And the couple starting fighting.
Finding the Middle Ground
While there is no one answer that fits every situation, every couple can learn to find a solution by following these three easy steps:
- First: get clear about what you are talking about. For example, if you want to have some money of your own, what exactly does “some money” mean? Start by calculating your total household income and identify what percentage of income you each earn. In the case above, the total household income was $10,000 a month. Jason earns 80 percent (his money) while Kat earns $2,000 (her money).
- Second: communicate what this is really about. Be honest with each other. It’s rarely just about the money. In this case, it’s about independence, insecurity, and control. It is usually the woman who wants to feel more secure. To get to the heart of the issue, ask your partner, Why? Until you get to the bottom line. You might be surprised to discover what its really all about.
- Third: identify the middle ground. Find a way to give both of you what you need. Using numbers can make it a black and white issue, removing the emotion from the equation. Use the percentage amount of the total household income calculated in step one to determine the percentage each couple should contribute toward expenses.
Using our example above, because Jason earns 80 percent of the household income, he would be responsible for paying for 80 percent of the household bills. What isn’t used for the household bills then becomes Jason’s money.
Kat, on the other hand, earns 20 percent of the household income so she would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent of the bills. Because her paycheck is smaller, she is responsible for a smaller percentage. Any remaining amount left after she pays her portion of the household bills can then become her money.
Photo: Flickr/ Sasamon Rattanalangkarn
- New York Times, Money Fight Predict Divorce Rates
- Money Magazine, Love and Money
- North Carolina State University, Financial Harmony: A Key Component Of Successful Marriage Relationship