Transforming Ordinary into Extraordinary Marriages
Marriage: Your Best Financial Strategy
It seems unfair that some people get all the lucky breaks. A CBS News Poll, conducted in February of this year found 84 percent of respondents earning more than $30,000 a year say they are very satisfied with their marriage while only 69 percent of those earning under $30,000 feel they are very satisfied.
It may be difficult to feel happy about your marriage when you feel poor. Or maybe the relationship between marital happiness and financial wealth is the other way around, that marital happiness and the choices you make determine your chance of accumulating wealth.
There are at least two ways that being married helps couples accumulate wealth. Married people make more money and keep more money. According to "The Case for Marriage" co-authors, Waite and Gallagher: "Husbands earn at least ten percent more, and perhaps as high as 40 percent more than similar single men." Married men earn more both because they work longer hours, and because they produce more than single men with similar work and education histories.
Slowly, with changes in increased education and full time work, married women's incomes are catching up to their husbands although gender differentials still remain. According to an analysis by Richard B. Freeman, a Harvard economist, of data from the most recent federal population survey, 30 % of working wives aged 20s to 60s - are now paid more than their husbands.
Married couples keep more money according to Waite & Gallagher,"…the longer you're married the wealthier you are." One reason: while two cannot live as cheaply as one, married adults spend less to live together than two single adults living apart and maintaining similar lifestyles.
Marriage may be helpful when it comes to managing money, At any given income level, married couples are much less likely to experience "economic hardship"-that is, to sometimes lack the money to pay bills. Like other financial partnerships, marriage allows individuals to specialize and trade goods over time, making each partner more productive. Higher production out-side the home combined with more in-home production (shopping for bargains, home-cooked meals, arguing with insurance companies) translates into more savings to invest for the future. Marriage partners also encourage each other's good spending habits and discourage impulse purchases.
Wealth and the Happily Married
Instead of just envying those who seem to get richer in love and money, the rest of us can learn something from how those in extraordinary marriages handle money. Several behavioral studies of Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth and Millionaires Next Door have found similar strategies used by your ordinary neighbor next door who is getting rich slowly. These findings translate into tips for couples who want to decrease money fights and increase wealth.
- Keep your systems simple.
- Pay off your charge card(s) every month. Those 19% interest rates can kill you.
- Pay down all debt. One excep-tion might be your mortgage. Talk to your financial advisor about whether or not to pay it down or use the interest as a deduction to lower your taxes.
- Take advantage of the magic of compound interest. Save NOW. It is never too late, never too early.
- Save first before you pay your bills. Don't wait until you have "extra" money. No one ever does.
- Save as much as possible in before-tax dollars in your retirement or 401K.
- Know what you make and what you spend. Look at your fixed bills, charges, and cash purchases to find out where it all goes.
- Set financial goals such as buying a house, financing children's education, and saving for retirement.
- Set parameters and priorities for those goals. Set timelines.
- Hire an accountant and a financial advisor to help you.
Money the #1 reason for divorce?
Popular folklore gives money conflict as the chief reason for divorce. However, the research finding that divorcing couples mention money in the top five if not the first of all conflict areas might be more the results of what memory researchers call "the recency effect," where people tend to recall the most recent events in their life. It makes sense that the last fights divorcing couples have as they exit their marriages are about money as they argue about the division of bank accounts, furniture, or 401K's.
When married couples argue about money and emotions run high they are talking about more than money.
- Money represents a resource that can be exchanged for life
style choices - both stuff (clothes, furniture, etc.) and experiences (parties, vacations).
- Money represents values. One spouse may value fitness, the other travel.
- Money represents attitudinal messages from culture and families of origin that we are not always aware of. Examples include: "Easy come easy go" or "Never trust banks."
- Money represents power. Those who have it decide how to spend it.
- Money represents security. You worry about how to make it, keep it or spend it.
To decrease arguments about money:
- Head off tension by talking often about money at your marital sit-downs.
- Don't restrict spending, plan it. Have a spending plan that allows each partner's values to be represented.
- Allot "mad money" for both partners to spend on themselves without accountability as long as the purchase is not harmful to the family.
- Follow the steps of conflict resolution when conflicts arise.
- If your emotions get you stuck, use a counselor to help you work the conflict through.
Teaching Your Children to Manage Money
Start teaching your children money management skills when they are old enough to count. School-aged children should have a small allowance so they have money of their own. It may or may not be tied to the completion of chores.
- Children should have some additional chore opportunities to earn extra money.
- Children should develop the savings habit. For younger children, let them save for immediate goals. College is too far off in the future for them (but not for you).
- Money management teaches value clarification. We always told our daughter, "It isn't that we don't have the money for that, it's just that we don't value it enough to spend our money on it."
- To teach good shopping habits, create an on-paper clothes budget each season (warm & cold). Each purchase is subtracted until there is no more money for clothes until the next season. Exclude gym shoes, coats, & special sports clothes from this budget.
Our audiotape series, Secrets of Extraordinary Marriages, covers conflict and marital sit-downs.
Olivia Mellon. Money Harmony
Ric Edelman. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth
Stanley & Danko. The Millionaire Next Door
Copyright 2001 Drs. Susan & Philip Robison. Feel free to copy and reproduce as long as you print with contact information: