By Gina Noe
Most couples can talk about anything — except money, that is. Maybe you don’t know much about financial management, so you want your husband or wife to handle all of the bills. Or maybe your parents never talked about money, so you don’t know how to approach the subject. Whatever the reason, many couples avoid talking about finances until life presents them with a job loss, a medical emergency or an unexpected bill. To have a strong, healthy marriage, positive communication is essential. If a couple can communicate openly about money, chances are they can communicate about anything.
People often joke that they have filet mignon taste on a ground beef budget. Many couples, however, let their expensive tastes and lifestyles influence them to live beyond their means, often creating unnecessary debt. We live in a society that encourages instant gratification. Media and advertising tell us that we need the latest, greatest thing and that we need it now. So what if we can’t afford it? That’s what credit cards are for, right? Wrong. For newlyweds especially, a first step towards healthy financial communication is establishing a responsible, agreed-upon budget early in the marriage.
Tips to keep in mind:
• Lay everything out on the table. Are you bringing debt into the marriage? How much income does each spouse earn? How often is each spouse paid? What are your monthly bills and when is each bill due? Whose name is on each bill?
• Discuss pooling your resources. Will you maintain separate or joint bank accounts? Whose money goes towards what?
• How will you work “fun” money into your budget? Money for entertaining, clothing, dining and dates? What about individual spending allotments? While it’s important to work towards financial unity, it’s also important to allow a reasonable amount of money for each person to spend at his or her discretion.
Talking about money can be intimidating, especially in new marriages or where one spouse earns a higher salary. Remember that your new relationship is ultimately a partnership. In order to maximize your potential as a couple and reap greater rewards, you have to work together. Talk openly about your financial expectations, your financial plans for the future and ways to handle potential setbacks. Healthy communication is important for healthy marriages.
Kentucky River Foothills will present “Financial and Relationship Peace: Foundation Skills at the Madison County Extension Center, 230 Duncannon Lane, Richmond, beginning Tuesday, Feb. 12. This seven-week, free course includes information on relating with money, consumer awareness, danger of debt, budgeting and more. The two-hour sessions will be offered from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. The class is for all married or engaged couples, single men and women who want to learn more about money, budgeting and relationship skills. Register by calling 624-2046, Ext. 379, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Source: Jennifer Hunter, Extension Specialist for Family Finance, and Nichole Huff, Family Studies doctoral student, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture)
Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.