By Mike Aquino for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
You can’t expect to stay happily married if you and your spouse disagree about money. And as far as relationship conflicts go, money is a doozy: your attitude to money boils down to your fundamental beliefs about life, and money spats quickly become fights about deeper things. Not a few marriages have foundered on the rocks of money incompatibility.
Not all couples find themselves on the S.S. Moneyfight and headed for the rocks, though. Money incompatibility by itself is not an issue if you follow a few successful rules of thumb.
Keep communication channels open. “Money isn't the root cause of divorce, but failing to talk about money certainly is a leading cause of financial friction in a marriage,” writes Jeff D. Opdyke in his book, Love and Money: A Life Guide For Financial Success. “Talk about your money and your goals often and you won't have to worry about money derailing your life.”
Opdyke believes that both partners’ views on money should be a point of rational discussion even before the “I Dos” are said. "Your ultimate goal before walking down the aisle should be to map together your financial future over the short, intermediate and long term and to understand what's truly important to each of you over those periods,” explains Opdyke.
To this end, he suggests that both partners write lists of their financial goals and put both sets of goals on one sheet. With this list in hand, “You'll learn things about your partner you never knew and that puts his or her financial needs in perspective,” Opdyke says. “Your partner learns just as much about you. Such knowledge will allow both of you to more effectively manage each other's financial concerns, not just today but through the years ahead.”
Don’t sweat the big stuff. Spend your money on things that you both cherish—not just things that keep the clockwork of your lives chugging along. Natalie Jenkins finds that many couples make the mistake of trying to “handle” money decisions by putting off spending on “couple” time that’s just as valuable.
“Part of being financial partners is learning to handle all the events of life together—as a team,” writes Jenkins in her book You Paid How Much for That?: How to Win at Money Without Losing At Love. “At the same time, marriage is not a project; it is a relationship. Events will always happen.”
So if you need to get the roof repaired; do you then forget about having that date for a couple of months? Many couples do—“These couples will wake up one day and wonder where their life went,” says Jenkins. When these “events” crop up, advises Jenkins, “don’t try to stop them, and don’t try to handle all of them before you start living.”
Know the difference between “good” and “bad” debt. At the same time, you ought to be making sure you’re not digging yourselves into deeper debt just to keep the marriage chugging along. “The savviest couples recognize that debt should serve only one purpose: to help you and your spouse build a better life together—not a better lifestyle,” says Jeff Opdyke.
Opdyke cautions against unchecked debt, which “has the power ultimately to hack apart a relationship, leaving a trail of financial destruction and obligations you're both responsible for.” Debt, if well managed, can improve your family life without placing unnecessary burdens on the couple.
What does Opdyke consider to be “good” debt? “A mortgage on an affordable house; a loan on an affordable car.... In effect, good debt improves your life permanently.”