The popular saying, “no romance without finance”, sometimes gives the impression that a lack of money is what causes financial issues in marriage. After all, we know that marrying a dreamer who enjoys talking big without corresponding action, or who counts his chicks before they are hatched, is setting oneself up for a marriage fraught with disappointment and frustration.
However, while it is true that not having enough money can and does put strain on a marriage, money issues in this honourable institution go way beyond that.
You may know people who have little, and still, make the best of it and live happily together, and others who have a lot and yet squabble over money all the time. The truth is that when it comes to money, we all have different personalities, value systems, and emotional associations. Growing up poor, growing up with a lot, being born into wealth and then experiencing poverty along the way… so many factors contribute to why people are the way they are about money. This is perfectly okay except that not many couples take the time to understand each other’s views about money, and come to terms with it, before tying the knot.
People are different, especially when it comes to money management, and marriage tends to magnify this. Some believe money should be held on to and they often deny themselves and their family basic entertainment and comforts just so they can save, and save, and save. On the other end of the spectrum, there are others who spend money just as it comes in, unable to consistently budget and save. These two extremes coming together in marriage can result in each bringing balance to the other, or in total disaster.
Some people are chronic worriers when it comes to money. Such people usually have experienced what it is not to have money, so they always keep close tabs on financial matters, and always fret about something happening to the money and landing them back in want. Others prefer not to think about it. They will usually leave money management to a spouse who they consider more competent. This avoidance often works well for them if they marry a planner who is good at budgeting (although planners tend to avoid risks and as such the family may not enjoy high profits from investments), but can also leave an avoider unable to cope should they lose their money-savvy partner suddenly.
Coming to terms with each other’s money style is vital to a successful marriage. Intending couples should talk about money as much as they talk about sex.
There are people who prefer to keep their income separate from their partners and make their own financial decisions; your money is your money, my money is my money, and gifts are gifts. While some may argue that this isn’t a style that belongs in marriage, it’s a reality for some and what’s required is a spouse who understands them and will not attempt to assume control of their finances.
On the other hand, there are people who believe that marriage includes a marrying of bank accounts. They would rather operate a joint account and share a chequebook because to them, marriage is a joint financial venture. Can you imagine such a person being married to a “separatist”?
Before you say I do — even before you get engaged — be sure that you both understand your financial styles and can agree on a way to run your household smoothly in this regard. Ask questions, paint scenarios and write down agreements. This way, you minimise the possibility of unpleasant surprises when you eventually merge your lives together.