We’ve all heard the statistic that says an increasingly prevalent cause of divorce is financial issues. It takes more than love to keep a marriage intact, and unfortunately, many people don’t realize that until it’s too late. Marriage requires communication and honesty, as well as the knowledge that your life is no longer solely about yourself. Thus, any financial pitfalls made by your spouse will likely blow back on you as well. This is especially true if you and your spouse have joint bank accounts, a home together or multiple shared credit cards.
Do you have questions about how to get your finances back on track? A financial advisor can help.
Be Honest With Yourself About Their Financial Tendencies Before Marriage
For many people who get married, their financial issues should’ve been worked out years before. If it’s possible, try to learn about your spouse’s financial tendencies before you actually sign the marriage documents. While some believe a prenuptial agreement is the antithesis of romance, it can allow both parties to air their financial history openly.
Even if you choose not to get a prenup, though, there are still plenty of steps you can take to achieve success. This involves simply talking with one another, pulling each other’s credit history or seeking financial counseling before getting married. In an ideal world, this will help illustrate any potential financial issues long before they become a real problem.
During these discussions, you can also talk about how money will be divided in the household, who is responsible for what bills, how savings will be handled and any other financial goals you may have.
Have a Heart-to-Heart With Your Spouse as Soon as Possible
Once you’re married and you see your spouse is financially irresponsible, it’s important to act promptly. However, before you have a heart-to-heart with your spouse, the first step you should take is quantifying the actual financial damage being done. Is there an imminent crisis, like overdue bills or is your spouse’s profligacy compromising the ability to achieve goals like buying a house, funding a child’s education or retiring comfortably? The second step you should take is attempting to determine if there has been deception.
Now you’re ready to talk with your spouse. There are three issues that this conversation should shed light on:
- Is the profligacy compulsive (regular) or impulsive (occasional)?
- Is the spouse willing to turn over control of finances to you?
- Is the spouse willing to a) acknowledge his or her problem? and b) get help?
Take Over the Family Finances
You two are still a team, and as such, you need to work together to ensure the financial health of your household. However, if your partner is not upholding their end, having the more responsible of you two maintain the finances until the other can get it together will help to keep your household afloat.
One of the best ways to ensure the bills are being paid on time is to allow the more financially responsible partner to take over paying them. Even with this approach, you will still want to include your spouse in what bills are being paid and when, as well as their amount.
If your spouse is willing, you should explore having him or her use only a secured credit card.
Seek Counseling and Financial Help
There are numerous support groups and specialized counselors for people who are financially irresponsible.
Seeking the help of a financial advisor who understands your goals and financial situation is a great way for you and your partner to confront the issues plaguing your marriage. An advisor can help you develop a budget and a plan to pay down any debts that need attention. They can also become another person on your team to help you and your spouse rebuild a solid financial foundation for your marriage.
However, while a financial advisor can provide plenty of practical benefits, they probably don’t have the expertise to get to the root of the problem. You may also want to go to marriage counseling, or a therapist who specializes in financial issues.
Protect Yourself and Your Own Finances
If you’ve done all these steps and your spouse is still behaving irresponsibly, it’s important to protect yourself. You can begin by removing your spouse’s name from the household bills, so that only you have access to them and ensure payment is received.
Furthermore, setting up your own bank accounts for savings and paying household necessities is another way to ensure your spouse does not have access to your funds. This may seem harsh, but if your spouse continues to put your family in jeopardy by behaving irresponsibly with money, you will have to take measures into your own hands to ensure your own financial stability.
While falling in love and deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone is undoubtedly wonderful, it’s important to remember that marriage is based on more than love. Each partner has an obligation to their spouse and their family to be open, honest and responsible when it comes to finances. If one partner isn’t being transparent, there are measures that can minimize or solve the problem. However, these steps demand a commitment from both parties.
Financial Planning Tips
- Financial planning and budgeting go hand-in-hand when it comes to managing your money. A financial advisor can help with this, as well as retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning and more. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Building a budget can be a great way to start achieving financial success. SmartAsset’s free budget calculator is a fantastic place to begin.
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