7 Money Mistakes That Can Mess Up Your Marriage

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Don't let these seven common financial missteps derail your happily ever after.

When it comes to whether you and your betrothed will remain together until death do you part, it’s largely about the Benjamins.

Yes, we’re talking money here, folks.

According to a 2013 study from Kansas State University, arguments about money are the leading predictor of whether a marriage will end in divorce.

Of course, there are no guarantees, but you may be able to increase your chances of marital bliss by avoiding common money mistakes.

Following are seven common money mistakes that couples make.

1. Thinking your spouse’s debt is not your problem

Today, men and women marry much later in life than they did in earlier generations. That means both people in the new union have had plenty of opportunity to rack up a little debt, whether it’s from student loans, credit cards or a shiny new car.

Legally, you are not responsible for paying off the debt your spouse accrued before your marriage. However, you are not being particularly smart — let alone nice — if you decide there is no way your income will be used to pay off Mr. or Ms. Right’s debt.

Ideally, you will have discussed this matter before your wedding day and done your best to clean up bad debt in advance. But if you find yourself married to someone with a boatload of debt, it’s in your best interest to help pay it down as quickly as possible.

Our Solutions Center offers help with credit card debt, tax debt and student loan debt. Use this resource to put yourself on the path to a debt-free future.

2. Failing to join finances

Even if you want to maintain separate accounts for spending money, you should have a joint account for combined expenses. After all, you are one household now. You’re both enjoying the roof over your head and the heated air in the winter.

Having a single budget ensures there is no resentment about who has more money or who gets stuck with a specific bill. Dump all your money into a joint account, write out a budget that pays all the shared bills and divvy up the extra for spending money.

3. Not having spending rules in place

Another benefit of having a unified household budget is that it gives you an opportunity to discuss ground rules for how to manage money together as a couple.

Ground rules will vary from couple to couple, but you and your spouse should be on the same page when it comes to answering these questions:

  • How much discretionary money can one spouse spend without conferring with the other spouse?
  • What discussion needs to take place before one spouse opens a credit card account or takes out a loan?
  • If there are kids in the family, do they get an allowance? If so, how is that doled out?
  • How will money discussions take place? Will they be scheduled at regular times, or just on an as-needed basis?
  • What happens with bonuses or unexpected windfalls?

Having ground rules in place will help avoid stressful situations. Go ahead and write them down so there is no confusion about what was said and agreed upon.

4. Keeping secrets and hiding money

In a 2012 survey by Self.com and Today.com, 56 percent of women and 37 percent of men said they had lied to their partner about money. That could mean they’re opening accounts without their partner’s knowledge, hiding purchases or squirreling away money on the side.

If you’re the one with the secrets, come clean. Hiding money details can signal a deeper problem.

If you want your marriage to have staying power, stop the secrets. That 2012 survey also found that most people considered financial infidelity just as damaging as an affair, and 13 percent of respondents said their divorce was the result of money secrets.

5. Leaving bills in the hands of one person

It’s harder to have money secrets if you work together to pay the bills.

On a practical level, it may make sense to have one person writing the checks and managing the online bill-paying schedule. But that doesn’t mean the other spouse should be left out in the cold.

Couples may find a monthly meeting is a good time to review account balances and look ahead for irregular expenses. This can also be a time to tweak savings goals and re-evaluate spending habits.

If your spouse bristles at the thought of being involved in the budgeting process, at least print up account information and hand it to your spouse, along with a monthly snapshot of your current budget and spending.

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