Money talk is often seen as taboo in most relationships. But to have a happy and healthy relationship, you’ll need to discuss it together. Here are tips on how to handle money together throughout each relationship phase.
Finances before marriage
“Ladies, my advice to you is before you get married, ask your future husband for a copy of their credit report. In fact, make it a requirement for you to see their credit report before agreeing to anything!” Mohd Khalil Jamaldin, Head of Corporate Communication, Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK).
He may have said that in a rather jokingly manner, yet we cannot deny that transparency of one’s financial standing is increasingly important these days. You don’t want to be shocked by your spouse’s mountain of debt because you had no idea about it before you got married. Talk about a rude awakening!
For couples who are not yet married, your expenses and money management are most likely handled separately. But you are not in the clear yet and should not dodge the issue just because you’re not yet married. You can start gauging your partner’s money habits. Observe to see if he or she is more of a spender or a saver. This will then give you some clues to how they might manage their money if it does lead to wedding bells.
Once you’ve established your partner’s spending style, you can bring up the topic of money management. But remember to do it with tact, and in a calm, non-confrontational approach because money can be a sensitive subject. The money talk is especially important if both of you are committed to each other and marriage is in the cards. Among the questions you should ask are:
- What are your current financial commitments?
- What are your thoughts on joint accounts?
- Do you have a monthly budget?
- Do you have savings?
But talking about money alone won’t do the trick! Be strategic and consider having a trial run on a shared account or even saving together for a shared purchase. This will train both of you to work towards a mutual financial goal while getting used to managing money together in a practical manner.
For couples planning to tie the knot, remember that a grand wedding will not guarantee a happy or lasting marriage. Don’t use up your savings or max out your credit cards for the wedding to avoid starting your married life with a mountain of debt.
Finances for married couples
“Nowadays there’s a lot of secrets (in marriage). The husband has debt and the wife has debt which they don’t tell each other. This is the reality.” Puan Nor Akmar Yaakub , Head of Financial Education, Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK).
When it comes to marriage and money, couples SHOULD NOT keep secrets from each other. “A lot of people don’t know about their husband’s financial standing. They don’t know how much is his income and his expenses.” Puan Nor Akmar further shares. If this is not worrying enough, when men are the main source of income for a household, they are apparently less likely to share all of their income with their spouse, according to the Household Money Management in Malaysia report.
The report also states that education and income play a significant role in the control over the management of household money. The spouse who is earning more or has a higher level of education is more likely to take control of the household finances. But ideally, married couples should be managing their finances together as Puan Nor Akmar says, “when you get married, all expenses and debt must be looked at as a couple.”
Avoid a financial power struggle by delegating and defining roles while making sure you discuss money openly before making any financial decisions. Couples should also consider having a joint account where they pool their income to make payments for necessities or even to save up for big purchases like getting a house.
The main takeaway for married couples are
- Don’t keep financial secrets
- Manage money together
- Have mutual financial goals
- Combine your income, think of it as ours instead of “what’s mine is mine”.
Fights and arguments will happen in a relationship, but achieving financial harmony as a couple is not impossible with conscious efforts from both partners.