We have all heard the statistics – 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce. It’s a shocking and a very discouraging statistic and one that has not changed much in the past three decades, according to recent data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Marriage counselors and divorce attorneys will confirm that most couples list financial issues as a significant cause for their failing marriage. Especially in difficult economic times as the present, arguments over money can really bring most couples to at least alienation, if not worse. And without a doubt, one of the worst offenders from the money troubles category is debt. It is stressful and overwhelming.
But with the right approach, it can be managed.
Forget the blame. It does not matter much whether you are working towards repaying debt that you have accumulated together as a married couple or debt that one of you brought into the marriage. Concentrating on the fact that one of you brought more debt to the marriage is not productive and will not help repay those debts faster. Pointing the finger will not get you far either. Instead of thinking “Your debts will ruin us. You should really repay those debts as fast as possible!” say :” Let’s see what we can do to repay the debts as fast as possible so we can concentrate on our long term financial goals”. Remember you are now a team. Your spouse is not the enemy, debt is!
Create your family’s financial plan together. No goal is successful without a plan. This is particularly true when your goal is to be financially free and repay your debts. To create a plan which will be followed by both partners, it needs to include input from both of you. Your family’s financial plan needs to be realistic and something you could follow with your partner long term. Remember that your family’s financial plan is not something set in stone and is an ever evolving plan that helps you get on the right track.
Choose the right person to manage the finances. Although in some families both partners are very financially savvy and frugal, in most couples one partner is naturally more inclined to be a saver and planner than the other. Sometimes opposites attract and it is not uncommon for two individuals who are on the very end of the financial management spectrum to form a successful union. If one of you is naturally more inclined to being a better money manager, it is an easy choice to delegate managing the finances to that person.
Practice common sense debt management. It is really quite simple – live within your means (below your means is even better), save, create a financial plan and follow it. For more detailed discussion on common sense debt management, see my previous post Do’s and Don’ts When Getting Out of Debt.
Be transparent and communicate. It is not always easy to try and explain to your partner why it is important for you to buy a certain thing. It is very normal to have different priorities and disagree on discretional spending but one of the worst things a couple can do is lie to each other about spending and acquiring more debt. If you feel like you need to hide your purchases and are unable to explain them to your partner, then maybe that purchase is a case of emotional spending versus something you really need. When tackling debt, you and your spouse, as a family should be a united front and keep the lines of communication open. Being transparent will give you an opportunity to identify if there is a need for your financial plan to be adjusted.
Being debt free is much more than just a goal. It’s a way of life that can make a ton of difference in your family dynamics.
So, don’t be a statistic! Don’t let debt ruin your marriage!