The following post is written by Jay Hurt. Jay is a Relationship Coach, columnist and author of the book, The 9 Tenets of a Successful Relationship, for Singles. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and his website.
Marriage is more than just a union of two people; it’s a union of two lives and everything in those lives. It’s about more than just the romantic side. It’s about combining lifestyles, families and philosophies about everything from parenting to health and wellness.
One very important “meeting of the minds” has to be on combining our lives and our money. Assets, bank accounts, real estate, all of these things now belong to both of you. If you go into the relationship not thinking this way, it’s a selfish perception, not a selfless perception.
In It to Win It
Being willing to share what was once yours is a fact of marriage. We have to go into it willing to have a mindset of what is mine is yours and vice-versa. This isn’t about legality, this is about managing our lives to have and build successful lives and relationships together. We have to go into marriage with open hearts and minds believing now that the two are one. This is how couples win, especially with money—working together. Regardless of whether you were just married or you have been married for twenty years, we have to be all-in, together! Several of my coaching opportunities have been people who felt like they were doing everything alone, including dealing with money. It’s a joint operation and as Dave Ramsey often alludes to, the household finance committee (husband and wife) must have regular budget meetings—together!
Committed means All-in
One of the ways you can tell someone is not fully committed to a relationship is that they are figuring out how to protect assets before the marriage. I realize there are situations where corporations or things of that nature are involved and it’s a smart legal decision to protect the asset for the good of the people tied to the asset (employees, shareholders, etc.) as much as the owner/CEO who might be getting married. In most average situations, we need to be combining what we have to grow. My income is now ours. It doesn’t matter who makes the most, how much it is, or what the ratio of one income is to another. What’s mine is yours, period. When we combine our incomes and work through things together, we have to work to do what’s best for the union. It won’t always work out for me (and my golf habit) or her (and her style fetish), but ultimately it will help us grow. There will always opportunities financially for each of us to support the other as well.
It’s essential to note, before you say “I do” that you learn if this person can be selfless. If they can’t be selfless, they are going to be challenged jointly managing money. They will also have a problem being committed. That’s not all-in, that’s “all-in as long as it benefits me.” This is a recipe for an unsuccessful relationship in the long run.
Up to this point, I haven’t said much about the tangible act of combining lives and money. The reason for that is its eighty-percent mindset. When it comes to the financial matters, here are some keys to growing together financially:
- Build a budget. Work on a budget together. Update it at least monthly. Know where your money is going and how it’s working for you.
- I’m a proponent of giving. It’s up to you to decide where and how you give, but give freely of your heart. It will often do as much or more for you than the person receiving the gift.
- Spending is necessary. A part of being selfless is allowing people to enjoy what they have and what they have earned. Build your budget with line items for entertainment, vacations, etc.
- Saving is critical to building for the future. Work together and study how to save for retirement via 401k, pension plans, etc. Look in to 529 savings accounts as college funds for your children. Create an emergency fund.
- Combining incomes shows your level of commitment. If there needs to be some separation of funds, that’s ok. Overall, look to combine incomes for the greater good of the relationship. This is often a sign to a woman of security in the relationship.
Sometimes in relationships, we make money a bigger challenge than it should be. Much of that happens because one party or the other takes the entire responsibility for the finances on themselves. Work together with money to win together with money. Consider that financial awareness, open communication and selflessness are traits of sound financial relationships.