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Couples start marriages in debt—then argue about it. How can you avoid financial fighting?5/10/2019

It’s not uncommon for couples to stress about money. According to an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, 38 percent of Ohioans say finances have been a main cause of stress in their romantic relationship.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 50 percent of divorced couples interviewed listed financial problems as a major factor that contributed to their divorce. That puts financial problems third on a list of 11 contributing factors—behind only “too much fighting” and “lack of commitment.”

Couples struggling with debt have a higher propensity to argue about money than those who aren’t. According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, 41 percent of couples who have consumer debt say most of their arguments center around money. By comparison, 25 percent of couples who are debt-free say they argue about financial matters.

In fact, money doesn’t make the top-five list of things in which debt-free couples argue.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of American couples are beginning their marriages in debt—and doing it, willingly. The OCUL 2019 consumer survey shows that 57 percent of Ohioans believe finances should be combined when a couple marries. That leads to more income and assets, but also more debt. According to the Ramsey Solutions study, 86 percent of couples married five years or less reported starting their marital lives with debt. That’s compared to only 43 percent of couples married more than 25 years ago.

However, there’s good news for those couples living in the Buckeye state—Ohio couples fair better than any other state. According to a Value Penguin study, the average Ohio household has only $5,446 of credit card debt—the least of any state.

Tips to Living Happily Ever After – Financially

  • Understand your partner’s finances. If you’re combining money with a significant other, it’s important to make sure you’ve aligned the goals you have for that money. Take time to thoroughly discuss each other’s finances – and to talk about how those finances could be combined harmoniously.
  • Set financial goals for the household. When your finances are aligned, it’s important your goals are, too. Make sure you and your partner agree upon and understand what you’re working toward—both in the short and long term. It’s just as important to discuss what you want from retirement as it is to understand whether you’re saving for a new car or a big vacation in the next couple of years.
  • Set a recurring money date. Finances can change overtime, which is why it’s important to maintain a regular household budget. It’s OK if either you or your partner is more involved in keeping up the budget, but it’s important that the other member of the couple remains consistently involved. A recurring “money date,” where both members of a couple can examine, discuss and contribute to the budget, helps each of you stay on the same page.
  • Remain 100 percent transparent. It’s important never to hide financial matters from your spouse. Be completely honest about any financial transactions, debt, or savings. Money is a tool to bring you toward your future goals—a journey you’re on together.
  • Seek help. Keeping finances on track can be hard enough for a single person. Once you add the spending habits, beliefs, and debts of another, you create a more complicated financial scenario. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Credit unions often have experienced employees and educational workshops designed to aid with your financial endeavors.

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