Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: money

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    Family and Finances

    Everywhere you turn these days it seems everybody is talking about the economy and its impact. Financial experts often discuss the dangers of people living beyond their means, and it seems that many are reaping the consequences of doing so. But despite the financial woes, is it all bad?

    Clearly families are getting hit hard. Studies indicate that for years now, close to 43 percent of American families have spent more than they earned, buying anything they wanted. Now, they are being forced to rethink their spending habits - and it is incredibly painful.

    Research shows that although money is not the number one thing couples consider when planning to marry, it is the number one thing they argue about. Instead of being happily married, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills.

    An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on their credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15,609 in credit card debt.

    When it comes to spending money, the temptations are plentiful – shiny new cars with the latest gadgets, flat screen televisions, traveling sports leagues, private schools, a new house, surround sound systems, trendy clothing, iPhones - and the list goes on.

    Believer it or not, emotions typically drive spending decisions instead of affordability. When it comes to money, a lot can be said about the value of self-discipline and saving to purchase certain items or participate in an activity.

    People often complain that family members are like ships passing in the night because of busyness. Maybe the upside of an uncertain economy is that people might step back and evaluate what really matters. 

    When asked what is most important in life, people consistently say “family” is the single most important priority; yet their lives indicate that money and things are number one.

    These ideas can help you make family a higher priority than money.

    • Focus on building strong, healthy relationships instead of empires. Children spell love T-I-M-E, not T-H-I-N-G-S. There is no downside to living within your means - both financially and time-wise. It could actually mean less stress, more family time, less maintenance, more downtime, fewer arguments and stronger relationships.

    • Evaluate all of your family activities. Find ways to exercise together, not apart. Exchange gym fees, travel sports and golfing alone to play with the family instead. Instead of paying to play, choose free family hobbies like playing tennis, biking or hiking. It will save you money and time.

    • Learn how to control your finances instead of letting them control you. Many people believe that more money, a bigger house, and tons of toys are necessary for happiness. Money and toys are no substitute for time, so spend time with the people you love.

    • Look for opportunities to encourage your loved ones and affirm them as a person worthy of your love. 

    When you look back on an economic crisis, perhaps you will see that less of some things is more of the best things. You may also see that many of the best things in life truly are free.

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    Where Does the Money Go?

    Do you ever wonder at the end of the month where in the world your hard-earned money went? It’s like money is falling out of a hole in your wallet!

    Consider this: if you buy a cup of coffee for $1.96, one chicken biscuit for $1.99, and a $3 magazine, you’ve spent almost $10 at the drop of a hat.

    “Little expenses really add up,” says Laura Coleman, personal financial educator with LFE Institute. “Most people don’t think about where their money is going. They make money and spend it, but they don’t have a system for managing it.”

    Coleman worked with one couple living paycheck to paycheck. With five children and a sixth on the way, the couple’s goal was to live on one paycheck so she could be a stay-at-home mom. When Coleman started working with them, they had basically decided they had to have a second income.

    “Money was causing a lot of conflicts and they had no idea what was happening with their finances,” Coleman shares. “They moved to a smaller home, lowering their monthly payment and got rid of a vehicle, but still needed two incomes. I worked with them to open communication and develop an overall strategy to find extra money and plug leaks. Within a short amount of time, we found $1,600. They were shocked.”

    Coleman contends that two of the biggest issues for couples concerning money are different spending styles and lack of open communication. When people don’t have control over their money and have no idea where it is going, they buy things they can’t afford, use their credit cards as part of their income, and there’s never anything left to save for the future.

    “I have been helping people with their finances for many years, starting out as a mortgage originator,” Coleman says. “Our clients were buried in debt and struggling to pay their bills. What they needed was education and the skills to manage the money they had, not another loan. I wanted to provide solutions, not create more problems.”

    As a financial coach, Coleman helps people develop a plan for managing their money. One of the first steps is to understand that spending is often a choice and as consumers we only have one chance to spend that dollar. LFE’s “$1,000 Card” helps people ask the right questions to make smart choices and save money.

    • Did I plan to buy this?

    • If I have to pay cash do I still want it?

    • What will happen if I don’t buy this?

    • Do I need this or just want it?

    The next step is to discuss financial goals.

    “When people tell me they want to be financially successful I ask them to define success,” Coleman says. “One person might consider success being able to pay down their mortgage while their spouse defines success as having money in the bank. We work together to establish goals the whole family can get excited about.”

    But there's more! Once couples have common goals, Coleman teaches them strategies to stretch their paychecks, reduce debt, avoid financial traps and ease family conflicts over money. “Financial freedom comes from taking control of your finances,” Coleman asserts.

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    How Can I Save Money?

    The media often talks about the economy, and they usually say it will probably get worse before it gets better.

    “Families are getting hit hard on the basics like gas and food,” says Debbie Brown, vice president of investments with Raymond James & Associates.

    “Studies indicated that close to 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year. People have been so focused on buying what they want regardless of the terms. Now, they are forced to rethink how they spend money.”

    An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15, 609 in credit card debt.

    “When people make decisions about spending they often operate out of emotion instead of thinking through the decision,” Brown says. “I know people who purchase items based on what their next paycheck will be versus what they have in the bank. In this economy nothing is certain. I encourage families to take a hard look at their spending, to set priorities and a budget and to live within their means. With energy and food costs going up, this can truly be challenging.”

    Brown says these ideas can help families stretch their dollars as far as possible:

    • Establish a family budget. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about the cost of living. Involve them in the process so they understand what it costs for electricity, water, cable, eating out, clothing, insurance, etc. Ask them to contribute ideas for ways family members can help conserve like turning off lights when leaving a room, carpooling or riding the bus.

    • Take your lunch. Instead of buying lunch at school and work, take your lunch. The Browns figured they could save at least $50 a week ($2,600 a year) by not eating out.

    • Be intentional about running errands. Think about where you need to go and whether or not you will be in the area for some other reason during the week.

    • Examine your cable options. You may be able to significantly reduce your fee by agreeing to fewer channels.

    • Buy your specialty coffee at the grocery store. Instead of spending $3.50 on a daily cup of coffee, get specialty coffee from the grocery store and brew it yourself for about 17 cents per cup.

    • Go through the drive through to cash a check. Paying ATM transaction fees can add up to some serious cash.

    • Don’t buy on impulse. Many times we see things we think we need, but the truth is we can live without it.

    “So many people think of budgeting as a negative,” Brown says. “I think this is a great opportunity for parents to challenge their kids to see how far they can help make the family income go each month. Most young people have no idea how much it costs to fill up the gas tank or buy groceries, much less heat or cool a home.”

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    Who Handles the Money?

    Who handles the money in your home? What kind of debt load do you carry? How often do you argue about spending money?

    The 2009 State of Our Unions: Marriage in America research conducted by the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values, focused on money and marriage, including the influence that debt, assets, spending patterns and materialism have on marriage.

    The findings indicate a strong correlation between consumer debt and marital satisfaction.

    The study found that money matters are some of the most important problems in contemporary married life. Compared to other issues, financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples and generate more negative conflict tactics, such as yelling or hitting, especially among husbands.

    Contributing researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Dew, professor of family studies at Utah State University, found that credit card debt and financial conflict are corrosive to marriages. Couples who report disagreeing about finances once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who disagree about it a few times a month. Dew also found that couples with no assets were 70 percent more likely to divorce than couples with $10,000 in assets.

    Interestingly, perceptions of how well one’s spouse handles money plays a role in shaping the quality and stability of family life in the United States. And, people who feel that their spouse does not handle money well report lower levels of marital happiness.

    Materialist spouses are also more likely to suffer from marital problems. Materialistic individuals report more financial problems in their marriage and more marital conflict, whether they are rich, poor or middle-class. For these husbands and wives, it would seem that they never have enough money.

    Maybe you’ve never given much thought to how you spend your money. Perhaps it never even occurred to you that what you are or are not doing with your money directly impacts the state of your marriage.

    It’s never too late to make changes. Here are some suggestions from financial experts:

    • Start with a conversation about your financial goals. If this is not something you can do by yourselves, consider attending a class on managing your finances.

    • Put all of your financial documents in a central location and go through them as a couple.

    • Track your spending. In order to make appropriate changes, you need to know where your money is going.

    • Start an emergency fund. Even putting a small amount in each month can be a safety net when you need extra cash.

    • Make a budget and commit to living within your means.

    One of the secrets to marital bliss is making sure that you control the money together instead of letting money control you. There seems to be something powerful, even sexy, about working with your mate to control your finances.

    Check out crown.org, daveramsey.com or MagnifyMoney.com for information on establishing a budget. You'll also find information for reducing debt, eliminating unnecessary fees and saving for the future.

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    Money and Stress in Marriage

    It's the one thing most people never get enough of. Many believe it is the key to happiness. People still argue over it, whether they have a lot of it or not enough of it to make ends meet. What is IT? It's MONEY, of course.

    Less than a month into his marriage, Roger Gibson, author of First Comes Love, Then Comes Money, found himself in a very precarious situation. He bought a truck without telling his wife.

    He thought she would love his brand new green truck. But the moment he saw the look on her face as he pulled in the driveway, he knew “love” was not the word to describe her feelings. As he saw his wife speechless for the very first time, he began to realize exactly what he had done.

    He thought to himself, “She is probably thinking, ‘How can anyone go out and buy a brand new truck without first talking with his wife?’” Gibson managed to create a financial situation in a few short minutes that put terrible stress on their relationship. In hindsight, he describes this as one of the most painful and embarrassing moments of his life.

    Money is the number one reason for stress in many marriages. And according to 2013 survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis, financial issues are also responsible for 22% of all divorces. This makes it the third leading cause of divorce.

    “The money marathon in marriage often takes on the character of a race,” says Gibson. “At times, the pressure can become too intense and many couples want to throw in the towel and quit before the finish line. Many young couples break all the rules ‘to get it all’ in the beginning. Instead of experiencing happiness in their marriage, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills. They overload themselves with debt, which can cause the ‘ties that bind’ to snap and knock you off balance.”

    Just as in a marathon, you can’t start out full blast or you'll never make it. Instead, get a map of the route and learn to pace yourself so you can make it to the finish line.

    Creating a spending plan is key for couples. Spending money is always more fun than saving. A plan’s purpose, however, is to strike a balance between the two.

    Believe it or not, intimacy can be driven by personal finances. Budgeting your money helps you think about your dreams for the future. It's also a reflection of where you want to go. Instead of fighting because you don’t know where you want to go, the plan provides security and brings you together.

    If you want to get a handle on your finances, Gibson suggests that you:

    • Eliminate unnecessary debt.

    • Actively manage your finances.

    • Build an emergency account, a savings fund for short-term needs and a long-term savings plan.

    • Spend less than you make.

    • Stop impulsive spending.

    “Prestige, people, possessions and pleasure: these are the things that drive us because that is how our culture drives us,” Gibson says. “Everything we do is a reflection of these four things. People who are fighting about money don’t have a proper perspective of what money is.

    “Instead of viewing money as a means to accomplish a goal, they see it as a way to satisfy their immediate desires. Usually the result is that finances control us versus us controlling our finances. The way that you gain control is to make a plan and stick to it.”