How to Divorce-Proof Your Finances

Dr. Terri Orbuch, relationship expert and author of “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great,” says that seven out of 10 couples report that money is a source of conflict in their relationship.

We all know that recurring arguments can erode trust and intimacy, in some cases ultimately leading to divorce.

Put your marriage on the right track by following these four steps to build a healthy, conflict-free relationship with your money and your spouse.

Step 1: Analyze

“Oftentimes, disagreements about money have little to do with money itself and more to do with issues of control, security, self-esteem and love,” Orbuch says.

That’s why she recommends married couples take the time to understand what money symbolizes to each partner. Orbuch says things like how your parents handled finances, what money meant to you as a child and the role money played in past relationships all can impact how we deal with money in our marriages marriages. The more you understand what’s really happening when you disagree about money, the better equipped you’ll be to peacefully resolve disputes.

Step 2: Separate

It might seem counterintuitive because marriage is all about togetherness, but Chicago wealth advisor Kathy Roeser says it is essential that spouses maintain individual financial identities. You might have joint accounts for household expenses and retirement, but Roeser says you should still maintain separate checking and investment accounts, as well as a credit card in your own name.

She says controlling some money of your own is not only an important source of confidence and independence, but also can protect you in the event a spouse dies or is irresponsible with money.

Step 3: Schedule

Chicago CPA and financial planner Kelley Long recommends married couples meet quarterly to discuss finances. Those discussions should include a review of spending and progress toward goals like saving for retirement. You should also discuss big-picture dreams, like buying a vacation home or starting a business.

“Open up a bottle of wine and make it kind of fun, or treat yourself to something fun after the meeting,” Long says.

Step 4: Splurge

There’s a lot to be negotiated in marriage. That’s why Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author  of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage,” says it’s so important for each of you to have some money to spend however you’d like—no strings attached. The financial freedom to grab lunch with the girls or to splurge on a new dress will make it easier to compromise when it comes to big decisions like college and retirement.

“If possible, each partner can be allowed a reasonable amount per month to spend without checking with each other,” Tessina says. “How much it is will depend on your budget and how much surplus you have.”