The Herald Bulletin

October 11, 2013

'Big Joe' Clark: Financial plan essential in marriage


The Herald Bulletin

---- — One of the most important events in a person’s life is when they get married. It is the period of time where one life is fully co-mingled with another, including living arrangements, daily routines and finances. Sadly, in today’s society many marriages end in divorce, this is caused by various factors, but one root of marital issues is founded in money.

A study by Jeffrey Dew, a Utah State University professor, found that couples who had arguments about money once a week were 30 percent more likely to get a divorce than couples who had reported disagreeing about finances only a few times a month. Understanding the relationship a spouse has with money is a good step in creating a financial plan that works for both partners and can help prevent financial spats from becoming a regular occurrence.

Before getting married it’s important for a couple to discuss their financial history, which may include any debts, bankruptcies, loans, etc. It will only make matters worse if after being married for six months, for example, your then-spouse discovers you have $8,000 in credit card debt that you were too embarrassed to bring up before. By being transparent with financial history, a couple is able to begin their new journey on the right foot.

Most people fall into one of two camps, spenders and savers. Professors at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan and Northwestern University reviewed the results of various relationship studies and found that savers and spenders commonly fall in love with one another, even though these two characteristics on face value don’t mix.

Recognizing each person’s financial-style can help understand where a spouse is coming from in the way they view money-related matters.

It may be a good idea to designate one person to be in charge of paying the bills, or divide things up and have each spouse be responsible for certain money-related activities. A newly married couple has to figure out what will work best for them, but it should be done early on to avoid any confusion and more importantly, late payments.

Creating a budget together can help alleviate many financial stressors by pre-empting them with a set plan. If both partners are under the same understanding about how much they are setting aside for retirement, a future vacation, or the new house they both want, arguments can be avoided as can the headaches of not reaching your goals. Professor Dew found that of all the common things couples argue about, financial disputes have historically been the best omens of divorce. To avoid becoming part of the “50 percent of Americans get divorced” statistic, be open with your spouse or future spouse about money and create a plan for how finances will be dealt with during the marriage.

Meeting with a third party, like a financial planner, can help relieve some of the tension money conversations can cause by allowing a professional to make recommendations for how to best set up a budget, pay down debt, and/or plan for the future.

Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, whose column is published Saturdays, is a certified financial planner. He can be reached at bigjoe@yourlifeafterwork.com or 640-1524.