by Jaynee Sasso
Looking back over their married lives, many people feel overwhelming feelings of happiness. But others bear some resentment towards their spouse. Studies have shown that half of all marriages end in divorce. The primary reasons for divorce generally involve a combination of financial challenges and poor communication. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the current economic downturn will increase or decrease the overall divorce rates. Some experts argue that the number of divorces will increase because already fragile relationships can’t handle the added pressures, while others say that couples will choose to stay together because of the economic benefits of marriage. Regardless of who’s right, the goal of married couples should be to stay together and learn how to weather the financial storms of life.
The beginning of the wedding season is just a few months away and many couples will invest a great deal of time planning the “big” day but very little time planning the marriage. I speak to all those blushing brides and plead with you to invest more of your time working out the details of your financial lives and to identify each other’s financial personality. Basically, you want to determine who “The Saver” is and who “The Spender” is. You also want to learn about each other’s financial track record. Examining credit reports and discussing debt that will be brought into the marriage can easily accomplish this. This should include the debt that will most likely be incurred as a result of the wedding. However, I encourage you to avoid incurring debt for one day that has the potential to negatively impact your marriage for years to come. It’s important that you understand the financial challenges that await you.
Once you get through the preliminaries and have decided to move forward with your relationship, the real work begins. First, you must develop a financial plan that focuses on pursuing what is best for the financial well being of the couple. The greatest challenge that many couples face is the willingness to adjust or line up their personal goals with that of their newly formed family or union. You must remember that what happens to one, happens to the other. For example, if your spouse does not save enough for retirement, you will have to bear the burden of using your resources to provide for them. The vows say, “Until death do us part.”
But too many people are married and still lead separate financial lives. The word “I” never turns to “we.” People say, “I do” in an effort to express their physical commitment to their marriage, but not their bank accounts. The hesitation to invest money into the marriage is due to a lack of trust and some times, selfishness.
The greatest advice I can offer to married couples and soon-to-be married couples is that you must begin to change your thinking in order to avoid financial strain harming your relationships. Instead of separating your bills and income into the categories of “mine” and “yours,” place it into the category of the “family” or “ours.” If your spouse is in debt, so are you, because the family is going to be affected directly or indirectly. The mismanagement of money by either party takes away from the family’s ability to progress as a whole because it leaves the family with fewer resources available to invest in their financial future. Marriage is not just about the physical commitment to each other, but it also includes a financial commitment to build a solid financial foundation as a team.
Join Jaynee Sasso and the Daughters of Zelophehad Inc for a finance workshop, “Healing from the Inside Out” on Feb. 21 and March 7, 21 at All Souls Presbyterian Church 9 am – 1 pm. Info and register contact at 714-0007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org