Love may be blind to some lovebirds, but financial matters between couples are always crystal clear. In fact, money is one of the leading causes of divorce among couples.
According to research by SunTrust Bank based in the United States, 35 per cent of couples said money usually caused friction in their relationships.
Another 2018 survey conducted by TD Bank, US, found that one-third of married couples argued about money at least once a month and that 44 per cent of divorced couples had regular arguments about finances before they split.
According to finance experts and marriage counsellors, money problems often begin early in a relationship, starting from when couples begin planning their weddings. For instance, if the bride is extravagant and the groom frugal, money friction is bound to occur.
The experts have identified the following seven most common money mistakes that can ruin a marriage and how to fix them.
Not setting shared financial goals
Finance expert, Ms Esther Trattner, said building a life and a home with someone means setting mutual financial goals.
“If each of you is saving for a different vision of the future, you are bound to have issues,” she wrote on MoneyWise.com.
Trattner advised that instead of assuming they were both on the same page, partners should take the time to sit down together and make a five-year plan on meeting money goals.
“Break down the plan into steps to be accomplished in the coming months and years. Working together will build a stronger relationship, a better understanding of your money and a future you both want,” she said.
According to the Managing Partner of Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, New York City, US, Ms Jacqueline Newman, hiding money from your partner is known as financial infidelity.
It may seem harmless at first, but it can be just as damaging to a relationship as physical infidelity.
Newman said keeping a savings account or stash of cash hidden from one’s partner could lead to the marriage’s downfall once the other partner found out.
“The other partner finds out and then trust is destroyed,” she said.
According to a 2018 survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education, US, 75 per cent of couples surveyed said financial deception had adversely affected their relationships.
Keeping debt a secret
A marriage counsellor, Mrs Bimbo Adebowale, said keeping debt a secret could harm a marriage.
“The problem with debt is that it cannot be hidden forever. The partner would still find out sooner or later,” she said. “In fact, hiding debt is as bad as hiding money from your spouse.”
Adebowale said when one of the partners had debt they were hiding, it would eventually return to haunt them both, hence the need to open up to each other.
She said, “In the first place, it is unwise for a partner to borrow money without letting their partner know. But if the deed has been done, they should not struggle alone.
“You have to be honest with your partner. Even if they are shocked at first and angry, they will come around and show commitment to paying off your debt so you both can get back on the right track.”
Adebowale added that lending money to family and friends could sometimes lead to trouble.
“Lending money to your relatives, especially without your partner’s knowledge or consent is disastrous to the marriage. Some relatives might not pay back on the agreed date and if the amount was significant, it might affect the family’s financial goals.
“Of course, it may not sometimes be easy to draw a parallel when it comes to lending to family members, but it is important to carry one’s spouse along. Remember, your money does not belong to only you again,” she said.
Ignorant about your partner’s finances
Trattner said in an ideal world, partners should always find out about each other’s financial standing before getting married.
She stated that it was important for couples to be open to each other about their finances to support each other in the attainment of financial goals.
“It is important to stay aware of each other’s spending in marriage. If it looks like your partner is spending beyond their means, start asking questions. It is not being nosy; it is being a responsible and caring partner,” she said.
Relationship coach, Mrs Sharon Lawal, said while it might be impractical to know a partner’s net worth before marriage, it was ideal to know their monthly income.
“This knowledge would help to plan and set financial goals together,” she said.
Not making time for financial talks
A finance expert at one of the investment banks at Victoria Island, Lagos, Mr Kola Oni, said most couples usually waited until it was too late to start discussing money.
He said relationships could only thrive on regular, calm and honest talks about money, advising couples to schedule either weekly or monthly discussions on it.
“Couples should regularly discuss money, including expenses, incomes, savings and investments. I believe this is one of the best things a couple can do to attain financial stability.
“Perhaps there are many couples who have never talked about these issues; I think it is wrong. When couples talk about everything, including money, it would help them plan their lives well,” he said.
When having financial talks, Trattner said it was important to try to keep emotions at bay. She said when anger, blame and resentment entered money discussions, both parties would suffer and their objective of discussion destroyed.
“Money talks should never be used to hurt each other; they are intended to help you move forward together,” she said.
Newman said overspending was a classic relationship quandary, especially if one of the partners was inherently a saver and the other a spender.
“This happens more when one person earns more than the other. The earner resents the spender and vice-versa,” she said.
To ease the stress of not having a misunderstanding on spending, the finance expert suggested that couples should agree to a certain level of saving, such as between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of their combined income.
“If that threshold is being met, then the overspending may not be an issue,” she said.
In addition, relationship coach, Pastor Kehinde Olaoluwa, said it was important for couples to set saving and spending rules.
He said, “Once you marry, there is nothing like this is my money or this is her money. Now, you both own your income. Ideally, you should both save a certain agreed percentage of your income.
“Also, you should both agree on how much you spend on personal items like clothes, make-up, etc. Of course, there are some items you do not need to buy every month.
“Lastly, there should also be a budget for household items such as food. The truth is, once couples see each other’s income as their income and not what they can spend the way they like, the better for them.”
Rushing into a joint account
According to Trattner, many couples are able to streamline their finances by opening a joint bank account. She, however, said this might not work for everyone.
She said, “Early in a marriage, you may want to open a shared bank account for household expenses and common goals, but caution is needed. It does not work for everyone.
“If you break up or one partner steals from the other, sorting things out may be difficult.”
Trattner stated that keeping finances entirely separate could also be a bad idea. “Referring to money as ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ rather than ‘ours’ can quickly open a rift,” she noted.
Rather than have entirely separate accounts or a joint account, Trattner suggested having one shared account to pool resources together and then separate accounts.
In addition, the finance expert said thinking one could change one’s partner’s bad money habits was unnecessary once the necessary rules were set.
She said, “If your mate was terrible at saving or was extremely thrifty before you got married, those habits will not suddenly disappear after the wedding day.
“Expecting this to happen or assuming that you will be able to change your spouse’s ways will lead to major disappointment.
“The key to a successful financial partnership is to understand each other’s habits and money outlook before getting serious and committing to working together to build better habits and a solid financial future.”