Today is a continuation of the blog series "Beyond the Big Day." These blogs are intended to help engaged couples, newlyweds, and anyone who is open to wisdom from others who have been married and learned a few things from it! Today you'll hear from my sweet husband, who finally agreed to write a blog for me :)
Going from a completely independent young woman straight out of grad school with one set of bills into a co-dependent marriage with two people and two hefty sets of bills and debt is not exactly the easiest transition.
Let's add your husband switching careers and going back to school full-time and your becoming the main income with your small business... and you've got the perfect storm for some marital stress, tension, and a lot of irrational pressure points.
I didn't exactly grow up with abundance; the basics were always provided for, but things were always tight. I started working at age 13 as a babysitter and as soon as I could get hired at the local art store at age 16, I was there with the red apron and name tag. I saw money and divorce tear apart my families twice, so it's always been a trigger point of anxiety and stress for me.
My husband Rusty's upbringing was a bit different as he grew up as an only child and came from a different economic philosophy. He has always been a hard worker since he was legally able to work, but if he ever asked for anything, he most always was given.
Getting married was the easy part. It was the actual day-to-day marriage of literally two becoming one financially that will test all limits. Because we both came from broken families, we had our eyes wide open and knew from the beginning we needed to understand and work together to blend our financial philosophies, but it was some rocky ground as we had to create a system that worked for us.
Understand each other's financial philosophies. I'm a saver, and my husband is a spender. This has been the hardest part of our marriage, but being a spender isn't a bad thing. It just means boundaries and systems have to be set.
Knowing your trigger points. Before getting married, I was that girl who would literally panic over pennies missing in the checkbook. I would meticulously balance and tally expenses and deposits every day. There came a point when it became an unhealthy routine as it would trigger anxiety. And a routine that could not be allowed to come into my marriage. I went cold turkey and stopped balancing the actual checkbook and relied more on an unconventional system of paying bills. I don't recommend that for everyone, but it was something I had to do to honor my new marriage. Money has been and will always be my trigger point for anxiety, and Rusty and I know this and navigate this accordingly.
Develop a system with delegation (and allow for system evolution). Ever since we got married, I've been the bill keeper and household manager. We are in our sixth year of marriage, and we finally just changed that system. My husband now is in charge of bill management because we realized I was letting this become a huge burden and unhealthy routine again. Being constantly reminded about numbers, what's coming and going, and deadlines even after all these years just wasn't strengthening our marriage. We re-delegated and working together a lot better now.
Have separate bank accounts. In addition to our joint checking account that is strictly for bills and our multiple joint savings accounts for various investments, we each have our own checking and savings accounts. This allows for the practical way of allocating funds but also the more fun ways of being able to save and purchase each other gifts without spoiling the surprise. Double bonus: knowing it'll never affect your joint bill paying.
Add each other onto your respective bills and bank accounts. There should always be financial transparency. Always. You are still two very individual people (particularly according to the IRS) who have decided to join lives. Not just needing access when you least expect it, it's the trust factor of being open and honest about finances.
Look to the future; get life insurance. No one wants to think about it, but the first year of our marriage, we got life insurance for each of us. I unfortunately brought a lot of student loan debt into our marriage. If something were to happen to me, my husband needs to be able to take care of things while he's grieving. It's just the practical elephant in the room that has to be talked about, especially if you decide to have children.
Consider hiring a financial advisor. Neither of us come from financial savvy backgrounds. I would over-save if I could, and Rusty would over-spend if he could. Having an unbiased professional tell you exactly what you need to do to get to x-y-z goals is pinnacle. Whether that goal is to buy a house, to get down your debt, or to invest in your future, knowing the exact formula of what has to happen with professional accountability can relieve a lot of marital stress. It turns your joint finances from a personal point of contention into a fair, practical action plan.
Sadly, decades upon decades, money is always in the top 3 of why couples divorce (or the root of a broken relationship). But realistically, I totally get it. It's the worst thing to argue about, it always causes friction, and it can destroy your bond as a family unit. Marriage isn't for the weak.
But you can survive and you can thrive. Even if you're eating rice and beans for weeks on end (been there, done that), financial disturbance should never be allowed to seep into your marriage. Give your joint finances their boundaries for better and for worse, and your partnership in love and money is sure to be a rock solid one.
Click here to read more from the Beyond the Big Day series.