Disagreements over finances are one of the leading causes of divorce these days, so while good money management isn't necessarily the key to marital bliss, it can certainly help. Ameriprise Financial conducted a study on the top habits of financially happy couples, and here's what it found.
1. They make money a priority
Recognizing the importance of money is essential to being financially content and secure. Half of those surveyed by Ameriprise agreed that money is a key factor in their lives and relationships, and making time to talk about money can lead couples to a better financial place. Along these lines, actively following a budget is a good way to keep money on the brain and ensure that you're managing and spending it wisely. If you don't already have a budget, spend an hour this weekend creating one with your partner. This will help ensure that you both understand where your money is going.
2. They sync up on financial goals
Maybe your priority in the next five years is to buy a house, while your partner is eager to establish a college fund for your children. Both are noble goals, but if you're not on the same page about them, it's an instant recipe for conflict. In the aforementioned study, the happiest couples were those who communicated openly about financial goals and got on the same page. And while it's OK to have different priorities, discussing them will help you get to a place where you're allocating your money equitably to ensure that both of you wind up content.
3. They stick to spending limits
We all make purchases on a regular basis, whether it's fuel for our vehicles or groceries at the local market. And while it would almost be crazy to check in with our partners every single time we open our wallets, there comes a point when it pays to get each other's approval for big purchases. This way, neither of you has to feel resentful or stressed when the other spends more than usual.
In the Ameriprise study, couples agreed that purchases exceeding $400 on average needed to be discussed, but feel free to set a threshold that works for you. Maybe you trust your partner and are willing to raise it to $1,000. Or maybe you're trying to cut corners and would therefore like to lower it to $200. The key is to arrive at a number you're both comfortable with.
4. They open joint bank accounts
Having your money in one place can certainly make it easier to track. Another thing financially content couples tend to do is keep their money in joint bank accounts for shared access. And those who do maintain separate accounts are completely transparent about it.
Of course, there are plenty of good reasons for having your own bank account. For example, using shared money to buy gifts for your partner might seem meaningless, whereas buying gifts with your own money is a totally different story. Or, you and your partner might decide that you're each going to retain a small amount of cash in your own accounts and use that money on personal indulgence or luxuries. As long as you're open about it, there's certainly no harm in keeping some of your money separated.
5. They share the burden of retirement planning and investing
Establishing a retirement nest egg is a lifelong process, and one you and your partner should tackle together. If you haven't begun planning for retirement, carve out some time to sit down with your partner and map out some goals. What's your ideal retirement age? Where do you want to live during retirement? And how do you anticipate spending your days? Once you agree on these goals, you can work on estimating how much money it'll take to achieve them and develop a savings plan around that.
It's also important to share the task of investing your savings for growth. It could be that one of you is fairly risk-averse, while the other has a more aggressive investment style. If that's the case, you'll need to work together to meet in the middle and invest in a manner that makes both of you comfortable.
If you're smart about the way you and your partner approach money, it's less likely to put a strain on your relationship. So think about the things financially happy couples do, and pledge to adopt some of these strategies yourself. You may come to find that a little openness and effort go a long way.