There are a number of really good reasons why you must have good communication to make your marriage work. One type of communication-communication about money in your marriage-may be put on hold for a long time, but sooner or later your marriage-and your life-will suffer if you don’t have good communication about financial matters in your household. It’s important to communicate with your marriage partner both at the beginning of your marriage and in an ongoing fashion about the financial side of your marriage. The successful married couple must have a structured plan in place to communicate about financial matters.
In many marriages, one partner is responsible for handling the bank account, paying bills and setting up the financial infrastructure for the family. If that person is a responsible and careful caretaker of the family finances, this situation works well–as long as the responsible party is alive and healthy. When that person becomes incapacitated or unexpectedly passes away, however, the remaining spouse may be completely in the dark about the financial liabilities and responsibilities he or she has inherited.
Part of your marriage financial plan is that you know which partner will handle each of various financial details, but it’s also important to keep the lines of communication open in your marriage so both parties will know what’s going on. My advice to couples about financial matters is that indeed one party can have primary responsibility, but the couple should work together to complete their financial plan on an annual basis and have ongoing conversations about obligations as they change over time. It’s a good idea to schedule a monthly session where the person in charge of finances discusses what actions he or she is taking with their partner.
In addition, the person who takes on the primary responsibility for the day to day handling of finances should make it a point to keep the other party informed of where vital information is kept and where they keep records of recurring expenses. Putting together some simple lists and keeping them in a place your partner knows about can enable him or her to step in to take over finances if you become disabled.
Here’s a story I heard from a friend that demonstrates why financial communication in marriage is absolutely vital.
A retired couple was enjoying being retired together. For all of their married life, the husband had paid the bills. It was just something he enjoyed doing. One day the husband got very sick. He ended up in the hospital for months, unable to communicate. The devoted wife spent every day with her husband at the hospital. She never thought to pay the bills. Her husband was her only focus. Well, the bills did not get paid. Also, being retired, they paid their taxes quarterly – and, you guessed it, those quarterly taxes did not get paid.
When the husband finally went home to recuperate it took him several weeks to even begin returning to his former routine. Bottom line – the tax man came and started the process to take their home for failure to pay taxes. Of course, this man was disabled for a long time, but it could have been worse. He could have passed away, leaving a spouse who was completely uninformed about the practical side of their finances. Admittedly, having the house go up for taxes is an extreme example but, while it may seem unlikely, it’s not impossible for it to happen to you.
The lesson learned: With communication about the financial side of marriage, situations like this can be avoided. Communication, particularly about matters of money, is a vital part of keeping your home and family secure.