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Money rules for happy couples

By Pauline Muindi | October 25th 2020

Money-related issues are at the top of the list of reasons why couples fight and eventually divorce. According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, money issues are responsible for 22 per cent of all divorces.

Money disagreements in marriage are not just for the cash-strapped. In fact, according to a 2018 study by Sun Trust Bank, being wealthy may increase your odds of divorce – especially when you marry someone who doesn’t have similar financial footing. 

The main causes of money-related friction in marriage include mismatched financial priorities, unexpected major expenses, and discovering a spouse’s secret spending. The following tips can help you secure your relationship:

Don’t overspend on the wedding

A wedding is an exciting celebration that officiates and announces your union to the rest of the world. With social media providing an avenue for people to showcase their wedding videos and photographs, weddings have become an extravagant affair.  So much that its not unheard of for people to go into debt to finance dream weddings.

While its ok to go all out on the wedding, it is advisable only spend what you can afford. Taking loans to finance a wedding means you’re introducing financial pressure in your marriage straight out of the gate.

For many young couples, wedding debts are added on top of student loans and credit card debts. Such young couples may be literally drowning in debt from the get go, which increases the likelihood of divorce within the first few years of marriage.

You can have your dream wedding without taking huge loans from banks. For example, invite fewer guests, send e-invites instead of printed ones, hold the wedding at a cheaper venue, and go to a domestic spot for the honeymoon. 

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Choosing to have your wedding on a weekday might also reduce your venue fees and keep your guest list to only the people who matter.

Have honest conversations

Even before tying the knot, you should have open money discussions with your partner. This might be uncomfortable, but it may save you plenty of disagreements in future.

Make sure to discuss everything from outstanding debts, loans, income sources, significant assets and investments, and financial obligations. For example, you should reveal if you’re paying child support or alimony or if your aging parents or other family members are financially dependent on you.

It is advisable to go for couples financial counselling whether you’re still dating or already married. The counsellor will help you understand the problem and guide you towards solutions. To avoid poor communication about money ruining your relationship, have weekly financial discussions with your significant other.

When discussing finances with your significant other, don’t use an accusatory or defensive tone. Additionally, choose your words wisely.

For example, the word “budget” might evoke negative feelings and resistance. However, when you refer it as “finance management” your partner might alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with creating and sticking to a budget.

Discuss major purchases

While you don’t have to tell your partner whenever you want to buy a pack of gum, discussing major purchases is one way to avoid disagreements.

A 2019 study found that 82 per cent of couples argue about significant purchases, especially when one makes the purchase without discussing and clearing it with their significant other.

Because everybody’s definition of a major purchase is different, discuss with your spouse what the term means. For some couples anything above 10,000 shillings might count as a major expense, while for another only purchases above 100,000 shillings are worth discussing beforehand.

For most people, major purchases include cars, houses and even furniture. Think about it, if your partner isn’t happy with the purchase, the item you purchased will always remind them of how inconsiderate of their feelings you were.

Sync your financial goals

Your financials goals as a couple and individually may shift and change over time, and that is ok. The problem is that many people forget to check in with their partners to make sure they’re in sync.

For example, one might prioritise saving for a vacation while the other is prioritising going back to school to advance their career. In such a case, both parties may end up resenting each other as they feel that their partner isn’t supportive of their goals.

It is particularly important to get in sync in households with one income-generating spouse. In such cases, the partner who doesn’t bring home the bacon might feel guilty but still resentful when their financial opinions are disregarded. The partner who is earning might also grow resentful if they feel that their spouse spends unwisely.

With this in mind, make time to discuss financial goals with your partner. This will get you on the same page and prevent misunderstandings and disagreements. For example, when your partner knows you’re saving up to go back to school, they’ll understand why you can’t buy them extravagant gifts. Even more importantly, they’ll feel included in the goal and offer their support.

No money secrets

Many people on social media advice the married to have secret bank accounts and investments from their spouses. But unless you’re in an abusive marriage and planning your exit, that may only put your marriage on the fast-track to divorce.

In fact, keeping secret bank accounts is the type of financial infidelity that more than one quarter of couples consider worse than sexual infidelity, according to a poll by CreditCards.com. 

If you’re in a healthy relationship, practice financial honesty to protect the union. Instead of keeping secrets from each other, it is better for couples to maintain separate finances.

This is where you have a joint account where they each deposits a portion of their income to cover household expenses and invest together. Each partner also has separate accounts from which they can spend or invest without their partner’s judgement.


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