Mixed marriages: When savers and spenders unite
Forget religious and cultural differences, the fastest way to relationship problems is a gap in financial outlooks. The most obvious example is when a frugal person marries a spender, but problems can exist when the partners are simply different levels of frugal. Whoever is more frugal will probably consider the other to be something of a spender.
At least, that's how I felt with Tim for a long time. He was a spender being converted to frugality; I grew up being careful with money. It seemed only natural that I become CFO of the relationship. I was happy to take care of paying bills and scheduling debt payments, but there was one major aspect of the job that gave me pause: reconciling our different approaches toward money.
Wherever you all on the frugality spectrum, one thing is pretty obvious: Money is an explosive issue. According to my therapist, it's the second most common argument in marriages. (Kids are the first.) That statistic certainly makes sense to me.
Of course, the major problem is that we rarely fall in love with people with the exact same financial outlook. (If you found one, congratulations and hang on for dear life!) So, when faced with disparate outlooks on finances, how do you come up with a plan you can both stick to?
Paid Twice discusses this in a recent post. She makes a lot of good points, particularly about compromise. She also touched on a very important one: transparency. Even if you take care of all financial matters, it's best, she advises, to sit down with your partner. Go over basic plans, actions and goals. What's more, comb through the nitty, gritty details, so your partner can see where the money goes. That's what helped her marriage.
I think this advice is spot on. Your partner needs to know that your rules are't arbitrary. Then both parties will understand why rules are in place, what purpose they serve. I would add that it's a good opportunity to make sure that both parties are happy with current goals and priorities. Sometimes it's good to have short-term goals, as well as long-term ones. (Though, of course, that's spoken as someone who believes in small indulgences to avoid overall frugal burnout.)
In addition, I would strongly recommend Liz Pulliam Weston's piece Get Real: Marriage is a Business. It's not exactly romantic. To some, it may even seem a little too hard-hearted. But I think the divorce rate would be lower if more people took these steps before they said "I do." To quote, briefly, from the article:
Love does not conquer all. If you and your soul mate can't figure out how
to paddle in the same direction, you'll wind up going in financial circles or --
to extend the metaphor painfully -- down the drain.