By Sydney Sekese, CFP® professional and FPI 2016 Media Award Winner
Last weekend the world witnessed Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan begin their married life after their spectacular, rule-breaking wedding, I have been informed that they will be delaying a honeymoon and turn immediately to their royal duties. This occasion was a quick reminder that money considerations and discussions should form part of conversations for all newlyweds.
Many of the spending and saving habits are clearly evident during the dating phase and should set off alarms. Financial disagreements early in the relationship can be a leading predictor of divorce. But most people, blinded by love and a desire to get married, often overlook them. No one enters marriage expecting divorce. Unfortunately things don’t always work out the way we expect them to.
Financial infidelity is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in a marriage. When one spouse is making significant financial moves without the knowledge of the other, it endangers the financial future of both people and exhibits a disregard for the most fundamental parts of a healthy marriage: trust and communication.
Financial infidelity can simply wreck a marriage when it is uncovered. When a partner discovers a credit card statement that’s charged up to the limit without ever knowing that card existed, their trust for their partner and their idea of financial security are tossed aside simultaneously.
Money issues need to be handled very carefully to avoid mishaps. There will be mistakes along the way, herewith some considerations and tips to make the financial union a smooth-running affair:
Scenario 1: Cash has gone missing:
A possible situation goes like this: Suppose you notice that your cheque or savings account is lower than you expected it to be? Does your statement indicate a bunch of ATM withdrawals that you didn’t expect? Where did that cash go?
If you are on a shared savings or cheque account with your partner, you have the right to know where the cash goes from ATM withdrawals.
Scenario 2: Your partner has a lot of new possessions and experiences
Another scenario could be that your partner suddenly has a new phone or a new tablet that you didn’t talk about? Is your partner suddenly enjoying lots of nice restaurants when traveling for work – or, even better, enjoying them at lunchtime? Does your partner suddenly have a ton of new clothes or shoes?
Who is paying for these items? Are the expenditures showing up on your bills? Are they impacting your budget? Have you talked about them at all? If not, then your partner is bumping up spending without talking to you about it, which is highly problematic because you’re a big part of the solution for paying for those items.
A prudent solution to this is to give each person a reasonable amount each month for complete “free spending” within the budget, but have some serious discussions if that amount is regularly exceeded. A “free spending” amount gives individuals the chance to buy desired things and enjoy experiences, but keeps them under control.
Many people in a relationship take a backseat when it comes to finances. If you want to be successful in life, be part and be aware of all your spending, investing and saving plans together. Learn from each other and be comfortable enough to let your spouse guide you to financial success.
If you want financial openness from your partner, you need to bring openness to the table. Every single statement with your name on it should be open to your partner and every line item should be open to question. If you expect to be able to do this to your partner, you must be completely open to these kinds of probing questions from your partner.