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Stop Money Fights

by Antonia Wang

Fighting over money is common among couples. According to a recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants - AICPA, 27% of those who are married or living with a partner said disagreements over money are most likely to prompt a spat. That made it the most volatile topic, ahead of arguments about children, chores, work or friends. The average couple has three money fights per month. This seems particularly true when there are unexpected expenses, insufficient savings or disagreements in the way money should be spent.

In spite of the frequency of money fights, over 55% of those who are married or living with a partner said they do not set aside time on a regular basis to talk about financial issues.

In situations like this, how can a couple overcome their money fights and prevent a negative effect on their relationship?

The AIPCA report offers some suggestions to avoid domestic money fights:

  • Get full disclosure: Before saying ‘I do' to moving in together or combining assets, both people in a relationship should offer full disclosure of their finances as part of a joint financial planning process. And the disclosure shouldn't end there. Each person should agree to routinely review credit card accounts, bank statements and credit reports to ensure all data stays in the open.
  • Set a money date: At least once a month-and preferably weekly-set aside time without other distractions to meet about family finances. This ensures an ongoing, open dialogue about money at a time when both people can free themselves from outside distractions.
  • Divide and conquer: It's typical in a relationship for one person to take the role of chief financial officer, managing accounts and paying bills. This arrangement can lead to unnecessary stress, tension and, at times, confusion. Split the duties. One person can act as bill payer, the other as money tracker, for instance. This removes the burden from one person and provides a check-and-balance on the family finances.
  • Hire an advisor: A neutral third-party is sometimes the best option to diffuse or avoid tensions over money. A financial advisor can work with couples to establish financial goals, pay bills, monitor accounts and help notice any unusual spending patterns, should they arise.

Additional tips:

In addition to AICPA's suggestions, following are other tips to get a hold of your finances and reduce money fights.

Visit your credit union together

In the process of managing your finances together, it is important that you visit your credit union together. Talk to your member service representative about your goals and find out what products or services the credit union can offer you to help you reach those goals. With lower interest rates and saving options, becoming a member of a credit union can be a step in the right direction to better money management.

Set goals

Your monthly or weekly money "dates" are a perfect time to establish financial goals for yourselves and your family. If you want to buy a house, how much money will you need to put down? What expenses will you cut or how will you make more money to achieve this goal? Perhaps you would like to throw a Quinceañera party for your daughter. How much money will you need? Will you save for the party or take out a loan? Answering these types of questions will help you plan for your short and long term goals.

Save

Healthy money habits like saving and being more frugal will help you manage your finances better and avoid money fights. For each purchase, identify needs from wants and ask yourself if your current financial situation or savings goals allow you to make that purchase.  Each unnecessary purchase you do not make is more money in your pocket that can go into your shared savings. The concept of "paying yourself first" or automatically transferring a portion of your paycheck into a savings or retirement account is a great step to help prioritize and make saving easier.

Be Responsible for your Own Spending

Each person who is part of a couple should ensure they maintain the agreements they've made with their partner to reach their financial goals. Avoid making frivolous purchases without consulting your spouse/partner, particularly if they break your budget. Keep in mind that a few "small" purchases can amount to a large sum over the course of a month. Be honest with yourself and your partner about your expenditures. Motivate each other to reach your goals and you will both be happier.

Learn about finances together

The website where you are reading this article (El Poder es Tuyo) has many resources to help you learn more about managing your finances. You will find articles, worksheets, videos and other tools to learn more about credit, saving, managing your family finances and preparing for the future. Explore this site together or share what you learn when visiting on your own.

Published 08-23-2012.

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