Avoiding Marriage Money Problems

Money continues to be the number one cause of divorce in America. To avoid marriage money problems, it pays to sit down and discuss money and marriage. It may not be romantic, but you need to do it, or you'll pay for it down the road.

Read on to learn some helpful tips to assist you in avoiding marriage money issues.

Tip #1: Set Expectations

Money matters are the number one cause of divorce because the couple can have very different expectations of how to spend money. To avoid marriage money problems, consider the following questions when setting long-term goals for your financial future:

  • What are essential expenses, and what are discretionary?
  • What are the shared expenses? What are individual expenses?
  • Should we have separate accounts or a joint checking account for marital expenses?
  • Should we have separate savings accounts?
  • Which accounts should be joint accounts, and which accounts should be separate?
  • If there's an income disparity, who should contribute to what and how much?
  • How will we handle debts that came into the marriage?
  • Who will be responsible for actually sitting down and paying the bills?

Newlywed couples might prefer discussing financial goals with a financial advisor. For instance, all assets and debts brought into the marriage remain the separate property of the person who acquired them. Assets and debts acquired during the marriage become community property. This can include credit cards and student loans unless couples plan ahead.

Tip #2: Plan for a Future

No one can predict the future. That should not stop you from making sound financial decisions about your future. Set financial goals now so you can save for major expenses later. Have an emergency fund for unavoidable disasters. Planning your spending habits now means avoiding marriage money problems later. Revisit this topic as your expectations and circumstances will change. Some topics to consider include:

  • Will you be buying a house? Houses and real estate become marital property when purchased during the marriage.
  • Will you have children? How many?
  • Will you need a college fund for your children?
  • When are you expecting to retire? Do you have a retirement plan or life insurance through employment?
  • How often would you like to travel?
  • Will you be remodeling or redecorating at some point?
  • Will you be buying cars?

Your financial situation now will change during your marriage. You and your spouse should plan now to set aside the funds you need to meet your financial goals. It takes time to develop the credit score that will net you the home you want for your family, so take time and start now.

Tip #3: Make a Household Budget

This is where you sit down with a list of your current income and expectations and create a household budget. You can create a financial planner with the help of an accountant or do it yourself with a spreadsheet like Excel. The important thing is that you know how to account for basic costs. Items to include in your budget are:

  • Income. This includes salaries and other income sources (rental property, stock dividends, business draws, etc.). Income is regular payments to your bank account.
  • Assets. Assets are all items of value, whether or not they are “liquid." Assets are your total worth if you sell everything. These include real property, valuable personal property (artwork, jewelry), checking and savings accounts, pension plans, retirement plans, etc.
  • Debts. These are all outstanding sums that you owe to creditors in total. That is the total amount of your mortgage, the total of all loans, mortgages, credit card debt, auto debts, and so on.
  • Expenses. Expenses are your regular weekly or monthly payments to stay alive. Necessities include rent or mortgage payments, groceries, and utility bills. Luxuries include travel, entertainment, and eating out.

You should review your household budget every few months. You need your joint bank account and separate account statements to see where the money goes. You should also have your credit report and credit card statements. Budgeting lets you see where you can cut back and where you are spending too much on nonessentials.

Tip #4: Making It Work

Learning to handle money takes time. Just as newlyweds get things figured out, a baby or a new job comes along to add a new cause of financial stress to the equation. Regular review of your financial plan can help avoid money problems. Equitable division of the spender and saver roles keeps married couples from blaming one another for shortfalls.

Realistic financial goals should be a priority from the beginning. Many couples today use prenuptial agreements to divide personal finances and marital finances before marriage. If you did not do this, there is a “postnuptial agreement" that your attorney can draft. It is a prenup, written after marriage.

Get Legal Help With Avoiding Marriage Money Problems

Money may be one of the most common reasons for arguments between married couples. If you have concerns about financial issues relating to marriage, the advice of a professional can be invaluable.

It's a good idea to contact a local family law attorney who can help you draft a prenuptial agreement. You can plan for acquiring property and determine tax advantages and liabilities.

Was this helpful?

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Many people can get married without hiring legal help
  • Marriages involving prenups, significant debt, child custody issues, and property questions may need an attorney

Get tailored advice and ask questions about getting married.

Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Marriage is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries (including your spouse!) to your will. Consider creating a power of attorney to ensure your spouse can access your financial accounts. Also, a health care directive lets your spouse make your medical decisions if you ever become incapacitated.

Start Planning