First comes love.
Then comes marriage (or otherwise sealing your commitment).
Then comes a host of money issues that make things really interesting, to say the least.
Combined, love and money make a complex cocktail of wants and needs, history and reality -- a cocktail spiked with a huge shot of emotion. (Should we combine our checking accounts? Why is his retirement savings so paltry? Which one of us is going to input our receipts into Quicken? You spent how much for that?)
Money issues continue to be the No. 1 cause of divorce in the United States. The good news is that if you can find ways to deal with it, your relationship has that much more of a chance of succeeding.
Communication is key to dealing with matters of finance. No surprise there. Instead of tiptoeing gingerly around the topic, vow to start a different kind of money conversation with your sweetheart -- one that's painless and maybe even a little bit fun.
The couples we interviewed for The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples & Cash told us how they get in the mood to talk about money. Consider the following tactics:
Reel 'em in. If one half of your pair isn't interested in talking finances, lure them in with an enticing reward. What kind of couch, vacation, home, retirement do they envision? When you explore the possibilities that well-managed finances could afford, the reluctant partner is more likely to become a willing participant.
Split up... your financial tasks, that is. Managing your money relationship is a two-person job. Take equal responsibility for keeping your joint finances on track. The math whiz in the couple can balance the checkbook, while the daydreamer can gather and organize those ATM and grocery store receipts you put in the fishbowl by the front door every day. Or consider an equitable distribution of other chores. Don't want to update the family will? Volunteer to do the dishes for a month. Aren't finances romantic?
Schedule a summit. The financial world is fond of quarterly reports -- go ahead and set a date with your honey (and plan to serve refreshments). Your State of the Union address should cover: 1) the amount of money you currently have together; 2) the percentage change from the previous quarter; 3) any transactions (buying, selling, saving, overspending, getting a puppy).
Get in the mood... for a money talk. Setting the mood for your money conversations is important. Proper lighting and a few ground rules will help. Consider the following, and ask your honey for input, too:
- Agree to try. No eye rolling or resentment, please.
- Accept equal responsibility for changing your lives.
- Don't play the blame game. No fair bringing up past financial indiscretions. Make this conversation all about setting yourselves up for a sweet future.
- Be honest and realistic about your financial situation.
- Take a break if your conversation becomes heated and unproductive.
Nothing proves your commitment more than vowing to successfully manage your finances -- together. A happily married man told us: "If you want to stay married, talk about money."
Pretty sound advice, especially considering he and his beloved have been following it for more than 40 years.