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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

In marriage, money matters a lot

By Alexander Coolidge
Cincinnati Enquirer

Abdu Wali and wife Nafisa get ready to go over some bills at their home in Springfield Township, Ohio. Nafisa handles the bill paying in the marriage. "I tell him what I need and he gives it to me," she said.

CARRIE COCHRAN | Gannett News Service

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Tips on how to manage your money as a couple:

Openly discuss your financial goals with one another and develop your plans from there.

Regardless of how you divide the day-to-day financial decisions, both partners need to be aware of and participate in your overall financial plan.

While you may choose to maintain separate bank accounts, your significant other should be generally aware of what you're doing with your money. Secrets are the antithesis of communication.

You both need to know where your bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies and other legal documents are located.

You should review your savings, retirement plans, investments and insurance situation together at least once a year.

Tend to basic financial planning tasks: paying off credit card debt, setting up 401(k) or other retirement plans and saving other money for emergencies large and small.

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When it comes to your finances and your marriage or long-term relationship, which comes closer to being your song: "Can't Buy Me Love" or "Money (That's What I Want)"?

Financial advisers and other experts warn that balancing your checkbook while keeping an even keel with your better half is tricky but necessary. Divorce lawyers say sharply divergent financial priorities help split up many couples.

Randal Bloch, a Cincinnati lawyer, said financial strains easily beat out infidelity as a cause for divorce.

"People forgive affairs, but money is a huge issue people don't agree how to spend, save or invest," she said. "I get calls April 14 from women, saying, 'He won't let me see the tax return.' These are people with no money or very wealthy but with the same issues."

Bloch said money often is a symptom of other deeper, uncomfortable issues: control, power, independence or trust.

Cathy Clark, a Cincinnati divorce lawyer, said that while having a spendthrift husband or wife ruins the marriage in some of her cases, an even more common problem is couples who don't save.

"Most of the people I see don't have much at all, even if they're making a good living," she said. "Money strains on people are a big problem and it translates into how spouses treat each other."

Financial experts say two keys to a healthier relationship with each other and your finances are open discussion about money concerns and developing a plan for both of you.

John Fidder, a financial planner with Ameriprise in Cincinnati, said it's important for couples to be on the same page to better achieve financial goals. He counsels engaged couples for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati about working together on money matters.

"I tell couples not to kill themselves to get to their goals but to try to get to them as comfortably as possible," he said.

Other experts say couples are often uncomfortable with finances because they have differing comfort levels handling money. The trick, they say, is working around those differences.

"A lot of times, the partner or spouse that's not as knowledgeable often feels intimidated almost ashamed discussing finances," said Michael Moore, a financial adviser with Wealth Advisors of Cincinnati. "I try to get them involved by directing questions to that spouse in the background."

Moore said while both parties need to be aware of their finances, it's OK for one to be less involved in the execution of the financial plan.

Jason and Traci Combs of Cleves, Ohio, both 29, have worked out a system over their 5 1/2-year marriage where Jason, a financial analyst with Convergys, handles a lot of the day-to-day finances. The couple met at Xavier University, where they were finance majors.

Traci, who recently became a stay-at-home mom after having their second son, said she lets her husband handle most of the bill paying. All of their accounts are jointly held.

"Usually, I tell him I need cash and I check with him before I make withdrawals, so we're not overdrawn," she said. "Being a one-income family takes a lot of management."

Nafisa Wali, 62, of Springfield Township, Ohio, handles the bill paying in her marriage to Abdu Wali, 69, a retired carpenter. The social worker's major financial goals over the next few years are to pay off about $5,000 worth of credit card debt and finish saving for her retirement. They have separate bank accounts. She tells her husband how much she needs from his Social Security to cover their expenses.

"I tell him what I need and he gives it to me," she said.