June 18, 1995 in Features

Marital Money Couples Who Work As A Team Achieve The Most Success In Managing Their Finances

Gwen Schoen Mcclatchy News Service

It’s been said that the first time one marries it should be for love, and the second time for money.

Can finances and love not join to make marital harmony?

It can, say the experts, but it takes some give and take from both partners.

“Finances cause more divorces than anything else,” says Roberta De Frantz of the Financial Fitness Center in Sacramento.

Financial problems place so much strain on a marriage that, according to De Frantz, it’s not unusual for couples to be referred to financial counselors by their marriage counselors.

“Often, before a couple can begin healing their marriage, they must first remove the stress of their financial problems,” De Frantz says.

For some couples, the key to financial harmony is sharing both the household debts and the spending.

For others, the key is separate bills and separate bank accounts.

Still others find bliss in ignorance, preferring to turn their paychecks and their bills over to their significant other.

Which method is best? No method is easy, say experts, but the most successful money managers are those who work as a team.

How do you achieve financial harmony?

“For many couples, talking about money is just as difficult as talking about sex,” says Rozanne Bazinet, a marriage and family counselor at Bazinet and Blazek in Sacramento. “Where couples run into problems is when they enter into a relationship with preconceived ideas about how money works.

“They have been taught how to spend it but not how to manage it. And they are defensive about their spending habits.”

Honesty is a key.

“Often a couple will come to me to work on their financial plan, and one of them will confess the true balance of charge accounts the other one didn’t even know they had,” says Barbara Hampton of Hampton Financial Consultants in Citrus Heights, Calif. “You’ve got to be honest with each other if you are going to be successful money managers.”

It’s fine for one person to take over the money-management duties, but partners need to be aware of how the money is being spent.

“Often the person who controls the money has the attitude of being in a position of power. The other partner needs to be included in the money decisions and goal planning, even if it takes a third party to help them open that line of communication,” De Frantz says.

“The benefit of working together is that it gives couples a sense of accountability because their partner will know how the money has been spent.

“Another area where couples sometimes have problems is when one of them considers something to be a need (such as an expensive hobby) and the other one considers it a want. It causes friction,” says De Frantz.

“Other couples get into trouble by thinking ‘mine and yours.’ Their relationship will be stronger if they think in terms of ‘ours’ and work together toward their financial goals.”

Figure out exactly how much debt you have and where every penny is going.

“Many people are surprised by what they discover when they begin to keep good records,” Hampton says.

“I had one client who realized he was spending $100 a month on doughnuts for the office. Another client discovered that she was spending $50 a week on fast food for her kids because she’d stop on the way to sports practice and pick up a quick meal.”

“We have found as much as $1,000 a month in income that was just disappearing,” De Frantz says. “Some couples think they are in serious financial trouble until they figure out how much money is being blown on silly things.”

Work together to develop a household budget based on your spending needs. Include in the budget some spending money for everyone who contributes to the household income.

According to De Frantz, everyone needs some pocket money for which they don’t have to account.

“The most important thing couples need to do is start a savings account of some sort,” Hampton says. “This account is used for emergencies like car repairs, insurance deductibles and home repairs. Savings are also used for regular expenses that come up infrequently, like car registration fees and property taxes.”

Figure out your financial goal and then break it into achieveable pieces. For example, if you want to pay off all charge accounts within the next three years, plan where you want to be in six months, a year and two years.

Credit is often the downfall of money management.

“Shop around for the lowest rates for credit and keep track of your charges so that bills will not be surprises,” Hampton advises.

“Couples run into trouble when they have two or three cards and they max them out,” De Frantz says. “Because the monthly payments are so high, they take another card and pay the monthly bills with it. Eventually, it will catch up with them.”

Others get into trouble with consolidation loans.

“If they use consolidation loans and stop adding to their debt load, consolidations can be a help,” says De Frantz. “Consolidation alone doesn’t work. You must change your spending habits.”

xxxx Be alert to symptons of money trouble Money can pave the way to divorce, says marriage counselor Rozanne Bazinet. How to avoid finance-related marital problems? Through communication and joint planning, Bazinet says. Here are some of the signs that the marriage may be breaking down because of finances: Partners talk - or argue - about money all the time. Or they never talk about it. Partners are not spending recreation time together. The bill-payer avoids paying the bills and often pays them late. You have feelings of being overwhelmed and depressed about money. Spending is out of control. -McClatchy News Service

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