Happily ever after? Guidelines for a financially stable marriage

have a financially stable debt free marriage by being honest about your financial situation
marriage is a financial commitment

Debt can devastate relationships. These guidelines will help you understand the financial commitment that is part of marriage.

Falling in Love is a beautiful thing to observe. Sweaty palms, hand-holding, the thrill of seeing one another…

But what happens if your sweaty palms are caused by debt-anxiety? Do you actually need your hand to be held to get out of debt? What happens when you can’t bear to look into your partner’s eyes anymore because your debt has reached a limit and you are unable to keep up your financial commitments?

Your relationship is filled with hope. You have plans for the future and the outlook looks great.

But life happens…

Life events occur all the time. Retrenchment, pregnancy, birth, medical costs, death, divorce, the list is endless. Although not all of these life events are unhappy, most of them come at a financial cost.

Life events occur all the time. Retrenchment, pregnancy, birth, medical costs, death, divorce, the list is endless. Although not all of these life events are unhappy, most of them come at a financial cost.

debt can cause strain on any relationship
Life events happen in any relationship. Not all life events are unhappy, but most still have some sort of financial implications.

But what about our debt?

Do we talk about our debt? We should. Debt can be transmitted to us from previous relationships and as uncomfortable as it may seem, it is crucial that we talk about it. In the case of a deceased spouse, debt is transferred to the surviving spouse: debt doesn’t die when you do. Divorce is another carrier of debt. Many times it is carried by one spouse and when the marriage crumbles, no effort is made to deal with the debt together. The carrier of debt continues adrift and alone with huge debt, now as the sole-breadwinner.

A financial commitment is part of your relationship. So, how do we step out of a negative cycle and enter into a new frame of mind?

Educate your family

Education has a huge role to play. Education starts at home: teach your children the value of money. Every month, sit together as a couple and discuss your budget. Reflect on the past month: where did things go well? What are areas of concern? Adjust your spending in the coming month so as to avoid past mistakes, and plan for emergencies.

Give

Various names are given to this part of your life, but it is essential to give in some small way. The guideline for distributing your income is 10% of income x3. It works like this: Give a little (10%), save a little (10%), and spend a little (10%).

teach your children how to manage money well
Teach your children strong and healthy financial habits from the start.
Set clear goals

Always have a nice, clear goal. Marriage costs money. The wedding day is not all there is to it. Save up for your big day. And the days after that… Build your relationship on sound financial habits and clear financial communication.

Understand your marriage contract

Your marriage contract is very important. Yes – get married out of community of property. Many young couples are offended when we bring this up. They say “we are never going to get divorced.” It is true that nobody goes into marriage with divorce in mind. But there is another dimension to marriage out of community of property, which has nothing to do with divorce:

It is the matter of joint estate.  If you are married in community of property, in the eyes of the law you are seen as one unit. Therefore your debt is yours, and your spouse’s debt is yours too. This means that you are responsible for your spouse’s debt – you need to know about it. If your spouse becomes over-indebted, this will be your responsibility as well.

When we do debt counselling to both young and older couples, our counselling often has to include marriage counselling. It is much better to deal with the matter of money at the beginning of your relationship, rather than when it is too late and your creditors are banging the door down. The marriage is yours, and a creditor has no place between you. Talk it through and come to a decision that you will work together on financial plans and expenses will be shared proportionally.

Share financial responsibility

In most relationships, each partner is responsible for certain specific aspects and many times, never the twain shall meet. This should not be the case financially, ever. Make sure your relationship is financially strong: share expenses, plan when to buy clothes, that new car, that house, what school your children go to, and even groceries.

married couples should share financial responsibilities to avoid the pitfalls of debt.
Married couples should talk openly about sharing financial responsibilities. Honesty and the sharing of responsibilities help mitigate the pitfalls of debt.
Manage your expectations

What are your expectations of your spouse? Do you expect him/her to look a certain way, with certain hairstyles, beauty treatments or clothing? How is your spouse keeping up with that expense?  Often it entails entering into a credit agreement, which must be paid off. Revisiting your finances regularly is essential.

Be prepared

There are factors that we can’t control. So many outside factors influence your happily-ever-after: the economy, political unrest, cost of electricity, transport, price of food, clothing and more. Make sure that you are prepared for what you can’t control by focusing together on what you can control, and following the guidelines outlined above.

Looking at the above, you can see that it is possible to live the fairy-tale of your beginning. If you are truly financially committed, happily-ever-after can happen for you – go on, grow old together. It is highly recommended.

If you or your spouse are struggling with debt, or if you are worried about the state of your debt upon entering a new relationship, contact Karin today here or phone her at 073 903 6942

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