Dealing With Financial Income Inequality in Marriage


The love of money may be the root of all evil, but arguing about money is the third leading reason (at 22 percent) given for divorce. Going into a marriage, two partners think they’ll “make it work.” It turns out that blending what often are two disparate views about finances isn’t quite so easy, and the issues become even more intransigent if one or both partners refuse to talk about it. Here are some ways you might be able to avoid the dreaded “D” word, and we don’t mean Dallas.

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot


The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $26,645. You didn’t read that wrong. Talk about setting yourself up for disaster. Most young people go into a marriage without much in the way of assets, so end up paying for the expense with loans and credit cards. With so many recent graduates carrying massive student loan debt on top of it all, expect the newlyweds to endure many stressful late-night arguments trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Here’s an idea: downsize the wedding festivities and plan a blowout party for your fifth anniversary, when the marriage’s financial underpinnings should be stronger.


The Money Mindset


The “ah ha” moment, if it ever comes, is to recognize that you might not be fighting about money but rather experiencing a temperament clash. Some people are frugal, others big spenders. To some, even talking about it is taboo. A frugal partner may be living in perpetual fear of the day they won’t be able to pay all the bills. It’s REALLY important to talk about this stuff before marriage, although that probably happens less than it should. If you’d rather rip your kidney out with a rusty fork than discuss money matters, ease your way into it by each taking an online money quiz.


Eye on the Prize and Get There Together


Given we all live busy lives, it’s easy to forget to focus on the same goal. If you don’t have a few common financial goals – vacation home, new car, trip the space station – it’s a good time to sit down and hammer that out. Here’s the reality. A couple forms a synchronicity when they’re pointed at the same target.

Which brings up another dreaded topic – the budget.

The trick is not to think of a budget as an evil ogre created with the express intent of draining all the fun from your life. Though it requires planning and discipline, the end result is freedom from stress and (hopefully) a life well-lived because your financial house is in order. A Gallup Poll found that only one-third of households operate under a budget. The good news is that there are a million and one apps out there to make the process, if not exactly fun, at least more tolerable. Stop fighting it. A budget might be your best chance of avoiding a money divorce.

Part of a successful budget includes saving money where you can. Try doing without cable television. Switch to a lower cost entertainment alternative like Netflix or Hulu. Rather than driving a high-dollar new car, get one a few years old and carry inexpensive coverage. These are just a few ideas. Put your mind to it and you’ll come up with many others.


Divulge the Secrets


It should go without saying that a healthy marriage doesn’t include big ticket secret purchases (unless it’s a gift for the other person) or checking accounts or credit cards the spouse doesn’t know about. If you feel it’s absolutely necessary to have your own credit card, let your partner know about it. At that point you might figure out a way to work through it. If you make full disclosure after the fact, get ready for a nuclear response that often starts with filing for divorce. The bottom line is that a marriage relies on trust. Hiding money and/or purchases is not a recommended way to create that.

If financial disagreements have pushed your marriage to the brink of war, it might be time to call in a third party to defuse the situation. Try a financial planner, minister, or couples’ therapist. Maybe all three! The bottom line is that what you’re doing isn’t working. It’s time to try something different.