Managing Money and Relationships

It may not be as romantic as a night on the town, but if you really want to divorce-proof your marriage, sit down with your spouse for a talk about finances.

Who’s the CFO?
Nothing can cause marital strife quite like disagreements about money. In most relationships, one person tends to handle the family finances. Sometimes one spouse takes over as a way to exercise control, but more often, the person who is more organized or interested in investing assumes the duties. Nicole Brucker, a financial planner with offices in Chicago and Evanston says dividing up duties is fine – as long as both spouses have all the information.

“The key to making it successful is transparency,” Brucker says.

Where’s the Money?
No matter who is the “CFO” of your household, both spouses should know all account names, balances, online log-ins and passwords, loan balances, total monthly expenses, and where to find important documents like insurance policies and mortgage deeds, Brucker says.

Online tools like www.mint.com allow you to aggregate all of your accounts in one place, so you can get a financial “snapshot” at any time. Since www.mint.com is web-based, both spouses can access the system from their own computers. If you prefer keeping your books on paper, Chicago financial planner Sharon Egan recommends creating a binder that houses your budget, account statements and other important documents–and reviewing it as a couple on a regular basis.

“You’re really doing a disservice to yourself if you have no idea about your finances,” Egan says.

A Shared Goal
Being a truly equal partner in ensuring your family’s financial well being isn’t just about making a budget or paying bills. Sue Stevens, a Deerfield financial advisor and author of “Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is: Finding Financial Happiness,” advises couples to set aside regular time for serious discussions about financial goals.

Don’t just assume that because you’ve had casual conversations about money that you and your partner on are on the same page. Maybe you’ve agreed you want to build a retirement nest egg. For you, that could mean squirreling away cash in stable mutual funds, but your spouse might think that means trying to achieve big gains on risky stocks. That is not the kind of difference in opinion you want to discover a few years from now.

“But, if you’re talking to each other, you can get to that happy middle ground,” Stevens says.

Even if you don’t see eye to eye, you can both get your financial (and emotional) needs met. As a solution to the above example, consider dividing the investable income and putting half in safe mutual funds and the other portion in higher-yield equities.