How can you stop money from ruining your marriage?

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me. – Winston Churchill

 Wedding (Illustrative). (photo credit: PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS)
Wedding (Illustrative).

This coming week, we will be celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. On the same day, we will also celebrate, albeit a few days early, the bat mitzvah of our nearly 12-year-old baby. So, I will take this opportunity to wish my awesome wife a happy anniversary, and mazel tov to our daughter.

Now, I don’t mention our celebrations as a cheap way to get a few emails from readers wishing me “mazel tov,” or as a reminder to many family members to wish us a happy anniversary. I think it’s important now and then to focus on couples and their approach to money. After all, numerous surveys show that the No. 1 reason for divorce is money issues.

According to soon-to-be ex-TV host Dr. Phil: “It’s this simple: Money can ruin your marriage. In fact, it’s the number one problem in marriages and the number one cause of divorce. People often underestimate the commitment in merging two lives together. The reason we fight most about money is because it’s the most measurable. Sure, compromises also need to be made when it comes to issues of time, space and affection, but with money, the give and take is quantifiable.”

Pass the salt

A few years ago for my wife’s birthday, we went out to dinner. While the food and the company was top-notch, one thing really bothered me: Very few of the couples were actually talking to each other. Now, if they were on bad dates, I understand, but most of the tables seemed to be full with married couples. When they weren’t eating, they were sitting, with their heads down, thoroughly engrossed in the latest posts on Facebook and Instagram or a discussion on WhatsApp. The smartphone was the center of attention.

It was very sad. After all, you could sit on the couch and not speak to each other. To actually take the time and spend the money to go out to a restaurant and play with your phone the whole evening was depressing.

 Bride & Groom Married Couple at Sunset Beach Wedding (credit: INGIMAGE) Bride & Groom Married Couple at Sunset Beach Wedding (credit: INGIMAGE)

Gotta talk

It’s no secret that men tend not to be the greatest of communicators. Perhaps that also would apply to yours truly. But based on more than two decades in the finances-services business, when it comes to money issues, I think the lack of communication is actually a two-way street.

Both men and women have a very difficult time calmly talking about their finances. Too often, the attempt at a discussion quickly turns into the spending blame game. When two people marry, they are merging two different cultures and approaches to money. That can pose a big challenge. That’s why it’s imperative that the couple get on the same wavelength regarding budgeting and saving issues. It’s even more important that they start speaking about the future, i.e., goals and retirement planning.

Now is the time

My wife and I have reached a new point in life – attending weddings of our good friends’ children. Earlier this week, we attended such a wedding, and we have a bunch of those weddings coming up in the next few weeks. For newlyweds, it’s imperative to discuss their financial situation. This means being open about bank and investment accounts, salaries, debts and loans. They should also start speaking about their financial short- and long-term goals.

I sit with middle-aged couples all of the time, and for the most part, they have never spoken about retirement with each other. I understand that between work, raising children and 1,000 others things that leave us with no time, speaking about what will be in 20 years can easily take a back seat.

I don’t believe that every couple needs to speak weekly about retirement plans, but they should once or twice a year; just to make sure they both have the same mindset is vital. It goes without saying that the closer you get to retirement, the more frequent and the more in-depth these discussions need to be.

It’s not her fault

This exercise is not about gaining the upper hand in the blame game. Speak civilly, and don’t start blaming each other for overspending. It’s common that one person in the relationship may be focused more on saving, while the other does a lot of the family’s spending. This means that from the get-go, there is potential for conflict.

That’s why it is so critical to talk these issues out. This way you can get a better understanding of where each person is coming from and reach middle ground – not only to start defining goals, but to agree on a spending plan that will enable you to achieve your dream retirement.

This helps create a team-like approach to handling money. If the couple works as a team, then there will be more discipline on the spending side, which will free up money to go into savings. It will also pave the way to a much better marriage.

The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.

Aaron Katsman is author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing and is a licensed financial professional both in the US and Israel He helps people who open investment accounts in the US.