There are five different types of money problems that people face with their spouse when it comes to their household money. Identifying the problems early can help overcome bigger issues down the road. We already face enough obstacles when it comes to marriage. Don’t let these problems stand in the way of your “Happily Ever After”.
1. Difference of Opinion On Financial Plans
A common issue I see is when a couple has the same goal in mind, but they have a difference of opinion on the financial plan that will get them there. For example, a couple might agree that they want to take the kids to Disney. They may also agree to put a new deck on the house. You may ask, “So where’s the issue?” And the issue is in the strategy each spouse may want to implement to meet their goals.
The wife might say that they have some debt that they need to take care of first. She wants to put all their extra money towards the debt first. The husband thinks they should pay the debt off slowly while also putting money aside for their goals. These differences in opinion have a lot to do with the way that you were brought up. They also have a lot to do with your past experiences with money, or if either of you had previous marriages or long term relationships where money came into play.
All of these situations color our perception on the best way to achieve something. You’re going to have your idea and they’re going to have their idea. Even if you’re going for the exact same goal, these ideas may not match. This creates room for a lot of frustration. Both of your financial plans might be right, but you must both commit to one to reach the same goals.
2. One Person Carries All the Financial Stress
When it comes to money, another problem I see is when one person carries all the responsibility. This one person runs the numbers and understands all the dollars in and all dollars out. This is a problem because that job is stressful! There’s a lot of mental load that comes with managing all the household money.
Before you get frustrated with your spouse, let me share a story. I recently had a client who came to me and she was responsible for managing all the household expenses. When I first talked to her I was like, “Dude, your husband sounds like a jerk!” Not too long after, he came to my office and that’s not true! He’s a super sweet guy who loves her.
When he fully understood the mess of confusion that was going on with their money, he immediately apologized for not backing her up. Once he fully understood the level of stress that she was experiencing, he stepped up into a totally different role in their money situation. She dragged him kicking and screaming into the meeting, but he left a willing partner who was ready to take on managing their finances together.
3. No One Wants to Take Charge
One of the scariest problems I see with a married couple’s finances is when no one takes charge of the money situation. Both people have avoider tendencies. This tends to create a total disaster because there’s no clarity of where they’re going. There’s no plan of how to get anywhere and there’s no one person fully responsible for managing the money.
When the ball gets dropped, it results in a lot of impulse purchases and asking each other for permission for things that you know are a bad idea. If neither spouse is in charge of the money, it goes out just as quickly as it comes in. Each spouse takes a turn paying for bills and expenses. For instance, sometimes the wife pays for stuff, sometimes the husband pays for stuff. Then, one day, the wife says, “Hey Babe? Can I go do this outlandishly expensive thing that’s a bad idea?” And the husband’s like, “Yeah, I think that sounds like a great idea. You should totally do it!”. Very often, this problem results in a bad credit score.
4. Keeping Finances Separated
This is not necessarily always a problem, but it is when we operate our financial situations in two totally separate and distinct ways.
When I see this as a money problem, it’s very often goes like this. A wife will run her money and pay some bills out of her account while the husband runs his money and pays some bills out of his account. Or maybe they have two separate accounts and one joint account for household expenses. Now, this is not necessarily always a problem. Sometimes this type of money management works out beautifully, but it depends on the marriage. When there is a problem, it’s because it’s massively inefficient.
One of the first married couples I worked with separated their finances to the point that they used two separate carts at the grocery store. They were married, they loved each other, and everything was great, but they were operating their money like roommates. There were a ton of inefficiencies in the way that they purchased household items. Even their bills were paid in a way that was completely inefficient. Everything was being done twice, with twice the effort and time, instead of working together.
We consolidated some of the money and they saved so much more every single month just by stopping duplicating their efforts.
5. Conflicting Priorities
This is the least common problem I see, but it can also be the worst. This occurs when spouses have two different sets of goals in mind for their household finances.
The wife’s goal for the household money might be to go on family vacations and save for the children’s education. The husband’s goal might be to buy a motorcycle and put a deck on the house. Their individual priorities, both for themselves and the household, are conflicting. If their goals don’t align, they are going to have issues and those issues are not going to be about the money. The issues are going to be about the use of their combined resources.
These are the five different types of money problems that I see most often with my clients. It’s important to be aware of them and to see if your marriage falls into any one of these.
There’s so much that goes into a marriage and your money, but a lot of it really comes down to the way that you’ve been brought up and the experiences you’ve had leading up to your marriage (both as a couple and as individuals). These experiences color the way that you see things and your approach to financial matters. Through identifying your money problems, you and your spouse can start towards working together to reach your financial goals.
This is Part 1 of 2. Stay tuned for next week’s post on How to Get Your Spouse Onboard to Fix Household Money Problems.