Tough financial times can put a strain on your wallet and your relationship. Here is what every couple should do to find and keep financial harmony.
I knew The Vince and I were in big trouble when I heard about the iPhone.
I know right? iPhone lang?
A friend told me her husband had spent an extra P20,000.00 on top of the suggested retail price on the latest iPhone. The husband already has an iPhone 5. He upgraded his still perfectly functioning iPhone 5 to the latest iPhone 6 which still has to hit Philippine shores – hence, the extra P20,000 that he paid.
Although he wanted to gloat about his purchase because he must be one of a very few, elite group in the country who got the phone first, he felt guilty and kept the phone hidden for a month. Money had been an issue with them lately that they had completely stopped talking about it. The husband was scared to tell her about his purchase (baka kunin ni mrs,j/k) because she might flip out. And when he finally confessed about and justified his purchase, she flipped. They had the biggest fight ever. (I would have told him off, too! The iPhone 6 is available in stores now. He should have just waited and saved P20,000.00!)
Kinonsiensiya ako sa kwento nya! Sobra! With our busy lives of endless deadlines, teen angst and a generally-happy nine year old, we never really did have money talks for a while. We haven’t talked lately about saving for retirement, either. I have been quite lately prone to impulse buying. We may well be on our way to our very own iPhone 6 meltdown.
I am sure some married couples out there can relate. A study I have read said only 25% of couples claim they work together to plan their financial lives. Couples also have different perspectives on some money issues, like what to expect when they retire. Money is actually one of the leading causes of marital fights.
With conflicting reports on how the economy is gaining or progressing, this is the perfect time for couples to stay connected about cash. Uncertainties on financial matters can create anxiety leading to a major financial squabble between the couple. To survive these tough times, you need to work as a team. Money should not be an issue that will make a couple’s relationship fall apart. In fact, it can actually make you closer together. All you have to do is:
Agree on your goals and priorities. Having shared goals give you a sense of greater purpose, partnership and mutual respect.
I have a cousin who will be tying the knot in two weeks, but as early as a year ago when he got engaged, he and his future wife have mapped out their goals. Their first goal: to buy a house. Second goal: save and start a family. Third goal: Save and invest for their retirement. They have also devised a plan on how to attain their goals. They plan to save about half of their paycheck for their house fund. After they have achieved their first goal which is to have their home, they will save about 20% of their income, one half will go to retirement and the other half for their future family.
Learning to talk about financial priorities with your partner can literally kick you out of your comfort zones. But don’t put off having that talk. Each person should make a list of their goals. Compare your lists and figure out which goals you would want to work toward together. Couples tend to avoid money talks, but getting down to talk about your shared dreams and how to fulfill them can actually unite and bring you closer together.
Get comfortable talking finances.
Most of us are raised never really liking the money talk. I am one of them. I was raised never really having to worry about money, but my husband did. This may be the reason why he loves to discuss every financial decision with matching spreadsheets. It is important to share your own feelings about money and finances with your partner – as well as listen to his thoughts. It is a good exercise to get those strong “financial emotions” off your chest. Getting comfortable talking finances will make you less likely to blame each other for financial problems.
Don’t just push money issues under the rug. Designate a regular “finance date” with your partner and review your financial picture as well as reaffirm your goals.
Take account of your accounts.
Most couples have joint accounts. When it comes to managing those joint accounts though, every couple has to find their own solution. The best way to figure this out is to take an honest look at both your financial styles. After that, set up a system that suits you. Be flexible and always re-assess you solution as your income and priorities evolve and change.
Share the duties and responsibilities in managing cash flow.
Once you’ve agreed on the way you combine or separate your cash, the next step to keeping financial harmony is sharing the responsibilities and duties in managing it. Talk about which financial tasks you’re each willing to do. The Vince and I for instance split our financial chores. He pays the bills, while I do the groceries.
Have a limit or a trigger number. You can spend as much as you want, but only up to the limit or trigger number. Beyond that and you have to consult your partner. This will limit impulse buys. This will also create a habit of financial openness that makes any money talk go more smoothly.
Agree on a savings strategy.
Just knowing that you have money saved is very powerful and comforting for a couple. Money in the bank is security if something goes wrong, such as a job loss or health emergency. Experts recommend that you need at least six months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. The easiest way to save is to pay yourself first. Set up an automatic transfer to your savings account to occur every payday. This way, you won’t even miss the money.
Keep in mind that how much you save, and where you save it, should be determined by the goals and priorities you and your partner agreed on. If one of your top goals is to build an emergency fund, put away at least 10% of your gross pay, then continue building up your other funds, i.e., retirement fund, renovation fund, travel fund, education fund.
Many couples swear they live from paycheck to paycheck and can’t save anything. If you, for some reason, cannot save at least 10% for your emergency fund, just put something away through automatic savings. Just getting into the habit of saving automatically will increase your chances of achieving your goals.
Plan for the what-if.
Having a will is an absolute must for couples, especially if you have kids. We Filipinos tend to put off an estate plan, because we don’t like talking about death. But a better way to have peace of mind is to accept that we will inevitably go. If you have kids, name guardians in your will.
Store your will, tax documents, passports and other important documents in a fireproof safe or a rented safe deposit box. Keep a list of all internet passwords, financial account numbers and emergency contact numbers in a safe place.
If you have kids, you also need life insurance. The rule of thumb is to insure yourself and your partner for 10 times your salaries.
The Vince and I still plan on living forever, but we took stock of our savings and investments. We started to reconnect financially. After all, if we could talk abut our own deaths, we can surely talk about the best way to pay the bills. And we’d rather take the extra time to tune up for our money lives than have an iPhone meltdown.
Oh, and my friend with the hidden iPhone problem? They have finally started talking and taking stock of their finances. I know money is still quite a sticky issue, but by following these six steps, you are on your way to being money stress-free!