It’s not uncommon for Georgia couples to stress about money.
According to a poll of more than 3,000 Georgians conducted by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, the trade organization for credit unions in the state, about 42 percent of respondents said finances have been a cause of stress in their romantic relationships.
Georgians aren’t alone in that predicament. According to a study published in the scientific journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 50 percent of divorced couples interviewed listed financial problems as a major factor that contributed to their divorce. That puts financial problems third on a list of 11 contributing factors – behind only “too much fighting” and “lack of commitment.”
Couples struggling with debt have a higher propensity to argue about money than those who aren’t. According to a study by RamseySolutions, 41 percent of couples who have consumer debt say most of their arguments center around money. By comparison, 25 percent of couples who are debt-free say they argue about financial matters.
In fact, money doesn’t make the top-five list of things debt-free couples argue about.
Unfortunately, an increasing number of American couples are beginning their marriages in debt. According to the Ramsey Solutions study, 43 percent of couples married more than 25 years ago said they started their lives together in debt. That’s compared to 86 percent of couples married five years or less who reported starting their marital lives with debt.
Georgian couples may fair slightly better than the average national couple – but not by much. According to a Value Penguin study, the average Georgia household has about $7,090 of credit card debt. That ranks Georgia as the 20th best state for credit card debt in the country; a little better than the middle of the pack.
Georgians also appear optimistic about finances in married life. While Georgians are clearly aware of the stresses money can cause for a couple, the majority still appear willing to share finances with their significant others. According to the GCUA poll, 51 percent of Georgians believe married people should combine finances.
Tips to Living Happily Ever After — Financially
- Set financial goals for the household.When your finances are aligned, it’s important your goals are, too. Make sure you and your partner agree upon and understand what you’reworking toward – both in the short and long term. It’s just as important to discuss what you want from retirement as it is to understand whether you’re saving for a new car or a big vacation in the next couple of years.
- Set a recurring money date. Finances can change overtime, which is why it’s important to maintain a regular household budget. It’s OK if either you or your partner is more involved in keeping up the budget, but it’s important that the other member of the couple remains consistently involved. Bates recommends setting a recurring “money date,” where both members of a couple are able to examine, discuss and contribute to the budget.
- Remain 100 percent transparent. It’s important never to hide financial matters from your spouse. Be completely honest about any financial transactions, debt or savings. Money is a tool to bring you toward your future goals – a journey you’re on together.
- Seek help. Keeping finances on track can be hard enough for a single person. Once you add the spending habits, beliefs and debts of another, you create a more complicated financial scenario. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Credit unions often have experienced employees and/or educational workshops designed to aid with your financial endeavors. For more information and to find a credit union near you, visit https://yourmoneyfurther.com/.
Julie R. Bates, CFP, ChFC and assistant vice president at Delta Community Credit Union, said it’s not uncommon for couples not to see eye-to-eye on financial matters.
“They say opposites attract, yet many couples are surprised when they find out their spouse views money differently than they do,” Bates said. “We each bring into a marriage our financial mistakes, lessons learned from our families and even cultural views – all of which shape our spending and saving habits.”
She said most couples who come into the credit union seeking help with joint financial issues find they haven’t taken the time to align on key issues.
“They often have conflicting visions for retirement, how much they should contribute to their kids’ college education, understanding employee benefits at work and so on,” Bates said. “One spouse may be intimately involved in managing the couple’s money, and the other is happy to not worry about it.”
Sometimes, these differences in opinions over money can lead to behaviors that further divide couples, Bates said.
“We’ve met with couples where one person in the marriage is concealing credit card debt. We’ve met with others where one person has large savings balances tucked away at a time when the household is struggling to pay survival expenses,” she said. “Being 100 percent honest about your personal financial position and flexibility about your expectations for your lifestyle now and in retirement will allow you and your spouse to get on the same page, financially.”
Bates said credit unions like Delta Community are uniquely positioned to help guide couples back onto the same page.
“Financial literacy education is a hallmark of the credit union industry,” she said.