Till debt do us part

Money magazine conducted a survey on money and marriage and found out that 84% of respondents noted that money causes tension in their marriage, and 15% fight about money several times a month. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar proportion of Filipino couples would say the same thing.

So I consider myself blessed that my wife and I have high money compatibility. We have similar goals and agree on the strategies to achieve them. But it doesn’t mean we never fight about money. As with most couples, we have differences on how we deal with our personal finances.

For instance, I look at the big picture; she sees the small details. I am good at strategy; she’s better at execution. I pay the bills on time; she records our transactions more regularly. My Excel worksheets are neat and restrained; hers are colorful and flamboyant.

When it comes to spending, I go for bargains; she goes for quality. I spend on books and magazines; she shops for shoes and clothes. My problem is I’m not very thorough; her problem is she is not very organized. While I’m polite and patient with bad customer service reps, she can be the customer from hell. While she can be naïve about dubious investments and financial products, I can be a sales agent’s worst nightmare.

Our differences can be a double-edged sword: they can be a source of conflict but they can also be used to complement our strengths and weaknesses. We certainly have not gotten everything down pat, but here are our lessons for making money and marriage work:

Agree on your goals. We’ve set a vision for a family and set our financial goals. Since we’ve agreed on what matters most to us, we are able to move towards a single direction. And we are aware of our priorities.

We, not me. Probably the hardest part in transitioning from the single life to married life is thinking in terms of “we, not me.” Every financial decision we make becomes a common decision. I can’t just splurge on what I want just because I make more money. Whatever I earn is ours, not mine. Whatever she earns is hers alone (just kidding).

Joint, but flexible. If you do want to keep your sanity in check, cut each other some slack. We do assign certain bank accounts for specific purposes (baby account, house fund, etc.), which clearly belong to us as a couple. But we each have an allowance that we can freely spend without recording the details.

Accept your differences. We just have our own quirks. But if there’s a particular behavior that endangers your finances or your marriage, you certainly have to deal with that. But for acceptable differences, just let it go. My wife just doesn’t pay bills on time, so I take it upon myself to do it. I don’t sweat the small stuff, which sometimes can be a bad thing, so she makes sure she asks all the what-if scenarios.

No blame game. We all make mistakes, unfortunately sometimes costly ones. If one of you is at fault, own up to it. But the other one shouldn’t waste so much time arguing. Work on it together. Remember: you share both income and losses. When we suffered a setback years ago, we took immediate action. We cut back drastically, my wife went back to work, and I took on every project that came my way. Now, we’re doing better than ever.

Communicate. One of the keys to a successful marriage is communication. The moment you hide things from your spouse, such as huge credit card debt, you’re in for trouble. Even minor things like feeling you deserve a weekly night-out with your friends or believing you really need that pair of shoes have to be shared.

Money in marriage is such an important issue that we made this our cover story. Learn what couples in different life stages have to say about how they handle it. Do what works for you. Whatever it is, work as a team, because really, you’re in this together.

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