Picture: Alexander Mils / Unsplash
Financial incompatibility can spell disaster in a relationship. In fact, studies show that finances are one of the leading issues for couples, particularly regarding how money is spent and earned.
While money might play a significant part in arguments, heated discussions, and divorce outcomes among couples, that doesn’t have to be your reality. You can take the following potentially relationship-saving steps if you and your partner have different money habits.
File Individual Tax Returns
An individual tax return is not always beneficial for couples, especially since filing jointly can often mean you qualify for tax credits like Earned Income Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
However, several benefits can also be associated with filing individual tax returns. If your partner has a tax bill, you won’t be liable if you select the married-filing-separately option. The IRS will also not apply your tax refund to your spouse’s balance due if you file separately.
Discuss Your Money Values Early
Debts and financial situations don’t make for a romantic first-date discussion, but it can be essential to discuss your money values early to avoid surprises later on. As your relationship turns serious, discuss your debts, what money means to you, and what you typically spend it on.
If applicable, discuss your savings plans and what you’re working toward to help see each other’s financial goals. When you discuss money early, you can learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and potentially devise a plan for ensuring financial compatibility in the future.
Devise a Money Management Plan
Every couple is different, and a financial system that works for one family might not work for yours. Some couples keep their finances separate while contributing to bills equally. Others combine their income in a ‘what’s mine is yours’ arrangement, particularly where children are concerned.
Don’t be afraid to devise a money management plan that suits the two of you, and update it as your family dynamic changes. For example, you might contribute less to household bills if you only work part-time while caring for your children, or your spouse might contribute less while they pay off medical debt.
Money management plans can be fluid, but you might see the value in creating one if it means you and your spouse are on the same financial page.
Create a Budget
If you continually find that your family is spending more than you can comfortably afford, leaving nothing for emergencies, consider creating a budget. Budgets can be important for all couples and families, whether you earn more than enough for your everyday needs or not.
Track your expenses, commit to only spending a certain amount each week, and consider adopting the 50/30/20 savings rule. This means you can spend 50% of your income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and debt.
Communication is crucial in all parts of a relationship, and money is no different. Discussing debts, big purchases, and financial shortfalls with your spouse is essential if you want to be able to make effective decisions together.
Communication can also be particularly important if one spouse is more fiscally responsible than another. If you can discuss financial decisions before making them, you can agree on the best courses of action together.
Financial incompatibility can be concerning, especially if poor spending habits and high debt levels are involved. However, by communicating with each other, filing individual tax returns, and devising money management plans and budgets, you might be able to prevent money from being the cause of relationship troubles in the future.
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