Ways for Couples to talk about Money

MONEY-CONVERSATION

Ways for Couples to talk about Money

What’s one of the biggest indicators of an oncoming divorce? Talking about money. Money is the number one most contentious issue for couples and the topic fought about the most. People are even using financial indicators as to whether or not they want to marry a person. A survey conducted recently by the website Lawyers.com found that 40% of responding couples, ranging in age from 25 to 55, found honesty about finances more important than fidelity. Today lots of couples want to manage their money in a smart, healthy way.

Gone are the days when one or the other spouse took care of all the money matters. Today couples want to discuss it and manage it together like partners. But what is the best way for couples to talk about money without the conversation devolving into a squabble? Financial advice website Learnvest.com CEO and newlywed Alexa von Tobel has some ideas. She recently teamed up with Cosmopolitan magazine to conduct a “Love and Money Boot camp.” This five day seminar includes how to best combine your finances and what moves you should make to ensure a successful financial future together. Couples are talking about money early nowadays as the relationship moves on.

But why is money such a thorny topic for couples? Mrs. Von Tobel said in a statement, “Discussing finances openly with your partner is crucial because money plays into every aspect of our lives, from the jobs we take to the way we raise our children. Since it affects so many major decisions, it’s necessary to check in with your partner from time to time to make sure that you’re on the same page when it comes to your finances.” Understand that there is no set way to manage money. If you are having difficulty in planning together, why not consult a financial planner? If one person thinks the other spends too much, the planner can go line by line through the credit card statements. It takes the pressure off the concerned party and takes resentment out of the equation.

Next, consider how you will merge your assets and your debts. Perhaps figure out a percentage out of each person’s salary that is put into a joint account that then pays the bills. Decide who pays those bills too, how it is done and so on. Don’t wait until there is a problem. Discuss financial issues often. Why not even schedule a certain time once per month or every other week to revisit the issue? Decide on a discretionary spending ceiling. Keep your shared goals in your mind. It isn’t always easy to iron out the money situation. But if you can do it, you will come out stronger as a couple. For more financial advice read, Home Finances for Couples: Resolve Money Problems in Marriage and Learn Easy Steps to Manage Your Family Budget by Leo Ostapiv.

Ways to Put your Finances Together

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Ways to Put your Finances Together

In the old days men generally took care of the finances, though in a few households the women took the money and paid the bills. Today, as partners, we are expected to each contribute our thoughts and feelings on the matter. People have different backgrounds and outlooks on how they deal with money. Some people realize that you only live once and money is to be enjoyed. Others understand that saving for the future and being frugal is paramount to success. Both outlooks are true. But it all depends on the kind of lifestyle you lead.

If a free spirit marries a skin-flint you’d better hold onto your hats. The arguments these two will have will be explosive. But talking about finances and ways to put them together, how to manage them, compromising, coming up with innovative strategies, and remembering shared goals are all a part of becoming life partners. It can still be difficult to navigate the uncharted waters of shared finances. There are lots of traps along that journey. But instead of falling for them take a look at these ways of putting your finances together. See if you can suggest one or two to your partner, move through the roughness and on to smooth sailing straight up ahead.

There is the equality approach. This is where both partners keep separate accounts but put money in for savings and the bills into one checking account. Both parties contribute an equal amount. Realize that a joint account means both people can put money in and take money out. There should be an explicit understanding of what that money is for and trust in one’s partner that they will handle their access to that account responsibly. If you aren’t getting married but cohabitating consider getting a cohabitation agreement to cover what may happen if you two break up. Further, separate leases could cause less grief should someone want to leave whilst both of you are on the lease.

When there are unequal incomes involved, a way of alleviating this problem is to allow both parties to contribute a percentage of their income, or what they can afford. Of course, if one person is a hedge fund manager and the other a kindergarten teacher and they live in a penthouse apartment, there’s no way the teacher could afford the rent. But who would want to give up that apartment? Instead, the educator can contribute what they would pay were s/he in a regular apartment. This gives the teacher their own independence. S/he is not reliant on the significant other for support. But it is also a sign of respect, in contributing his or her fair share. For more advice read, Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples by Matt Bell.

Can Living Together before Marriage Prevent Divorce?

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Can Living Together before Marriage Prevent Divorce?

7.5 million U.S. couples, mostly 20-somethings are cohabitating today as a way to make sure they’ll stay together, in hopes of preventing future divorce. The reason is most of them grew up in the 1980’s when a lot of divorces took place. Millennials and Generation Y growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s for the first time saw a record number of divorces due to a chipping away at the stigma and, what’s more, no fault divorce laws coming into vogue across the nation. These generations want to stave off marriage in hopes of making sure the person they are living with is the one for them. Divorce is of course a financially and emotionally shattering event in one’s life. But there seems to be some controversy in whether or not living together before marriage prevents divorce. According to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Meg Jay of the University of Virginia, who in a New York Times article wrote of what she calls the “cohabitation effect,” a phenomenon of cohabitating couples getting married and becoming less satisfied than those who did not live together, and so are more prone to divorce. According to Dr. Jay instead of getting married 20-something couples merely move into the direction of cohabitation instead of making it a point to focus on, discuss and decide on their relationship and where it is going, what she’s termed “sliding, not deciding,” meaning couples just drift into cohabitation rather than making it a serious decision as perhaps couples in past generations might have.

Sliding works like this: sex leads to leaving a tooth brush at someone’s place, then some personal care products and sooner or later the couple has moved in together. “Mission creep” is another term used for the same phenomenon. The couple seems naturally to fall into cohabitation. But according to Dr. Jay research has shown that the sexes view cohabitation differently. Women see it as an avenue to marriage while men see it as a way to have a relationship. What’s more, Dr. Jay says that the standards they hold for a spouse aren’t as high as one they hold for a cohabitating partner. As the relationship develops a new stage will sooner or later crop up, what Dr. Jay calls “lock-in” which she defines as, “the decreased likelihood to search for or change to another option once an initial investment has been made.” Once the couple is established, they are splitting the bills, have a group of friends, and even have pets. It is harder to extricate one’s self. Also, entering into dating after you’ve been lodged into this type of relationship is scary. If the relationship at home is of a lower quality than one would have if one were looking for a marriage partner, it seems as though it’s easier to settle for what you have at home than to get rid of that person and set out to seek a spouse. So people in this group settle for what they already have, says Jay.

Jay argues that 20-somethings and others stay in mediocre relationships for years, not being really happy simply out of convenience and a fear of the unknown. She says relationships that would have lasted only a few months now drag on for years, and so in her view wastes those 20-something years. Still, cohabitation seems likely to stay, not only for social reasons, or fear of divorce, but also financial ones. Lots of 20-somethings having to forgo marriage for longer bouts of education just to be marketable in the job market have staved off marriage for career. Some 20-somethings are so overburdened with work and school that they don’t have time to develop their love lives. In this sense, a default mode or staying in a non-traditional or even a non-monogamous relationship in order to get one’s needs met while still keeping one’s grades up and earning a paycheck could be more practical for 20-somethings. A whole shift in how people engage in their love lives is not based merely on the younger generation experiencing their parent’s divorce but in shifts in our economic system and other factors as well. People are also living longer today. Being married to one person for the rest of one’s life is looking less and less like an attractive option. What once only lasted a few decades can now go on and on for even half a century or more. There are many more options open today for young people due to the proliferation of internet dating and dating apps. What’s more, a generation of young women, college educated and able to support themselves are in a peculiar situation. Many don’t see themselves supporting a man. They aren’t tethered to men for financial support and so can choose and steer the course of their own romantic relationship with far less of the stigma that once occurred in the past. Dr. Jay may be on to something in one sense. But there also may be many more factors at play complicating the issue. Some psychologists and others are calling this the end of marriage. Others believe marriage will only change. Some are proposing different scenarios such as an open marriage, marriages that expire after a certain number of years but that can be renewed, even situations such as “monogamish” where couples have a few rules about when they can stray outside of the marriage. How marriage plays out in America in the future is anyone’s guess. One thing is clear, we are at the beginning of a tremendous transformation in this category of life that isn’t projected to change anytime soon. For more pick up a copy of the book, The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter- and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Dr. Megan Jay.

Credit Myths Surrounding Marriage

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There are lots of myths surrounding marriage and credit out there. But you should be able to separate myth from truth before you tie the knot. There are people who are avoiding marriage to someone they love, or won’t even date someone they could be interested in due to their credit rating or high student loans. While these are extremes your and your spouse’s financial future does depend on the state of your credit. The first common myth is that a couple’s credit scores are somehow averaged together after they get married. The truth is your credit score is attached to your social security number. Since that number will never change your credit score will always be individually yours and no one else’s. Your spouse’s credit score may affect your ability and at what rates you are approved for in getting a mortgage, car loan or a business loan. Some people believe that getting married itself lowers your credit score. This is patently false. Marriage does not change your credit score in and of itself one iota.

There are those who believe your credit score will vanish once you are married. This isn’t the case. You’re not starting over. If your name changes and you report that to your credit card company, bank, the company that manages your student loan or other creditors, the new name will be listed on the same credit score as an alias. Keep track of your credit report if you do happen to change your name however and make sure no inaccuracies appear there. Many people believe that their spouse’s bad credit will damage their own credit score. Your spouse’s credit only counts when it comes to joint investments or ventures such as buying a house. Your individual score will remain unchanged. Do help your partner work toward repairing his or her credit and you will get a much better rate when it comes time to say get a mortgage or a car loan. Lastly, there are those new spouses who believe that marriage automatically gives you access to your spouse’s accounts and credit cards. This is not the case. You will have to call the credit card company or bank to be added. Know that when you are authorized to use your partner’s account, it will not directly affect your own credit score. To be a co-signer on a loan, refinancing may need to take place. For advice on repairing your credit, read How to Remove All Negative Items From Your Credit Report For Free by Riki Roash.

Is Being Single or Married better for your Bottom Line?

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Weddings today are so costly. It seems that you put down the GDP of a small country just to cover all the expenses. Generally you have to figure for a loss. Then there’s that pesky marriage penalty. But still there are tax breaks and many other incentives for being married. When single, you don’t get these but you don’t have an expensive wedding to pay for. Nor do you have to shoulder the debt of a spouse. So in taking everything into consideration, is being single or married better for your bottom line? If you guessed married you would be correct. According to a new article out in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “The High Price of Being Single in America,” a single woman will pay a staggering $1,022,096 more than a married one over the course of her lifetime. There are those tax breaks we mentioned. A married woman is privy to part of her husband’s salary, shared to take care of the bills and so on. Then there’s savings on housing, healthcare costs, even social security benefits. But is it all as straightforward as this article portrays it?

One thing that is always true, housing is more expensive for singles. This goes for insurance, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20-somethings spend an average of $9,964 for their housing. For the average married couples that figure is $8,844. For the lawfully wedded, over the course of six decades that can total $67,200. Not a small amount of money to be sure. Not only is housing more expensive for singles, but they don’t have a dual income household to help share part of the costs. Another area to look at is the tax savings. Many times it works in a couple’s favor because there are their certain deductions married folks can take. Often with dual income households, one spouse’s income isn’t quite up to par with the others. When this occurs however the couple can actually save on taxes while not being pushed into a higher tax bracket. In terms of healthcare, single people spend an average of $570 per year, compared to their married counterparts who shell out $482 each on average, due to the costs of coverage being reduced for their status. The exception is that many times insurance companies do not offer a savings by putting a couple under the same plan. It’s best to check before committing to one. Even for lifestyle items such as cell phone plans, gym memberships, even travel expenses are more expensive. To read more about this phenomenon, check out Dr. Bella DePaulo’s book, Singled out.