Good Money Moves for Couples

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Couple discussing budget
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Marriage is a coin flip.

You may never have looked at it in quite those terms, but it’s a reality. According to the American Psychological Association only about half of first marriages survive.  That’s a bit scary.

If you’re working hard to end up on the glass half full side of the equation, money is, or should be, a hot topic. Why? Because it’s a common stressor and often called out as a top area for marital discord. That’s especially true as we struggle with the effects of the pandemic.

These money moves may help you move from survive to thrive:  

Make goals a group exercise. When I first came to USAA, I attended a company-wide meeting and the CEO threw up an image of a rowboat. In the middle of the crew there was an individual rowing in the wrong direction. The image has stuck with me for years. In marriage, you’ve got a team of two and you’ve got to be rowing in the same direction. What direction? That’s up to you and your significant other, but you should. If you haven’t already taken more time at home to establish your goals…do it now and do it together.  

Talk money on a consistent basis. Here, frequent, open and honest communication regarding your finances is the objective. Establish your own money chat routine. It could be a daily check-in or a monthly summit. The key: Create a cadence of discussions about money that ensure you and your spouse are aligned and aware. I’ll let you run with “aligned and aware,” but those two words are powerful and cover a lot of ground. 

Create a winning account structure. Over my years of working with couples, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly as it applies to what I would call day-to-day “operational set up.” Joint accounts, separate accounts or a combination. While studies have shown that joint accounts are indicative of a healthy relationship, we use a combo at our house. Figure out what winning means to you and execute.

Draw a line in the sand. Marriage is the ultimate in juggling. Successful marriages are typically characterized by couples who maintain their individual identity, but in the context of the team they are as a couple. While it may seem like a minor thing, I suggest that when it comes to purchases or big financial decisions (portfolio moves, insurance, save or pay off debt, etc.) you clearly delineate when individual autonomy is turned in for the need to work in tandem. The line in the sand may move, but it should be understood and jointly agreed upon. The ever-changing nature of the line hit me at a recent presentation when a more seasoned individual scoffed at a $200 limit on a purchase without consulting their spouse. Different places in life may mean different lines, but lines are still important. 

Walk through the what-ifs. Who will take care of the kids if we aren’t here? Do we have the best life insurance strategy in place? Are your parents moving in with us? I could go on and on, but proactive conversations with agreed upon strategies and outlooks can head off real heartache and headache during a crisis.

Celebrate wins. Hey, it can always be nose to the grindstone, save, save, save, cut, cut, cut! Take some time to pat each other on the back and say, you’re a winner. They chose you, right?

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