Marriage and Finances: A One Year Reflection

September 20, 2022by Alex Willard0

Have you ever wondered what happens between “I do” and “we’re done”?

Survey says… In some cases,

We all know that merging lives is not always as easy as it seems. Everyone has different skills, attitudes, upbringings, experiences, values, and education. We also know individuals have different communication styles and both typically come into a relationship with individualized expectations. So, having ongoing communication in a healthy way can and will curtail countless conflicts – especially when discussing finances.

Research suggests that one of the leading causes of divorce is money disagreements. In fact, more than 22% of marriages ending in divorce are contributed to this very thing.

…But, what about the “I do.”

My wife and I will be celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary on October 1st (happy early anniversary, Hannah!) and although we aren’t as seasoned as most, we have gleaned a few realizations that may be beneficial to others. I am aware of the obvious that I work in the financial industry daily, so it does allow me to focus on the financial aspects of a relationship more than others, but most of the realizations we’ve had are quite simple to discuss and implement.

Here are a few that may be helpful:

  1. Be aware of habits throughout your dating relationship.
    • The more you are aware of how someone stewards their finances, the better prepared you’ll be when you choose to take the next step. Here are a few instances that you may want to be aware of:
      • Not open to discuss money. (Give this some time. This is a conversation that should come as the relationship matures.)
      • Borrowing frequently from those around them.
      • They don’t have any savings. (They may constantly check to see if they have enough for a purchase.)
      • They pay bills after the due date.
      • Display of impulsive spending to keep up with others.
  2. Go through marriage counseling or have a qualified third-party facilitate a conversation.
    • My wife and I decided to engage in marriage counseling from our pastor before we got married. One of the topics we discussed was finances and the conversation flowed from an assessment that was taken. This allowed for an open and honest conversation of the following basics:
      • Spender vs. Saver
      • Spending plan vs. No spending plan
      • Debt vs. No debt
      • Financial fears
  3. Seek to understand each person’s upbringing, their experiences, their values, and financial savviness.
    • Talking through each of these will give context to financial behavior as the relationship continues.
  4. Set household goals and be purposeful with every dollar.
    • Set long-term and short-term goals using the “pay yourself first” mentality. Goals sometimes take time to agree upon, so begin implementing the goals that are no brainers to both parties and continue to work out the ones you don’t agree on. Make sure to ask plenty of questions and allow each side to respond. Once goals are set, the goals will hold each spouse accountable to their spending. You will know why you say yes and why you say no to your daily purchases.
  5. Have a monthly, or at minimum, quarterly check-in.
    • Collaboration is always best. Having a frequent, intentional discussion allows both parties to stay on the same path and navigate roadblocks before they become too big of an issue. I encourage couples to formulate a spending plan, so the plan drives the conversation. This helps to take emotion out of the conversation and allows the conversation to be centered around the facts. This check-in also presents an opportunity to revisit and reflect to allow for changes as life occurs.
  6. Don’t keep score.
    • If you’ve said, “I do” you’re on the same team. Work together by combining everything into a joint account(s). This allows for a central hub for the ease of tracking and helps to cut down on financial infidelity.


In addition to the realizations, here are a few conversation starters that I’ve found to be helpful in understanding one another:

  • In my home growing up, money was…
  • When I think about our financial future…
  • What you may not know about money and me is…
  • The thing I appreciate about you in relationship to money is…
  • When it comes to money, I’d like to improve my…
  • One specific action we could take right now that would help me/us is…

Unfortunately, if money is left undiscussed for an extended period, conflicts can and will arise. Make sure your household is working together after you say, “I do” so it doesn’t lead to “we’re done”.

Alex Willard

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