Some of the financial decisions that many of us make in our lives on the surface have nothing to do with our finances. Many of us choose to make a decision that can have a massive impact on the bottom line, and that is our choice of a mate.
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Sure, there are the obvious marital-related financial details, such as switching from filing your taxes individually to filing jointly. It shouldn’t be too hard to find the right income tax calculators to accommodate that, though. That can and does certainly have a financial impact. Joining households may also often streamline expenses, since two can often live more cheaply than one. However, in my opinion the biggest and most often underrated way that marriage or cohabitation can affect your finances is simply that you become much more affected by the financial habits of another person.
How’s that, you ask? Well, we all grow up with certain ideas and values related to money. Some of us may have been raised in homes where frugality and minimalism were the norm, and others of us may have grown up in environments where every product- or consumer-related desire was indulged. The point is that we bring different financial backgrounds to the table with us when we go looking for a mate.
This alone can have a far bigger impact on your finances than anything else. I would argue that if one chooses a mate who spends money freely with little thought of long-term goals, it will be incredibly difficult for that person to ever build up significant wealth even if that person considers himself/herself to be a really frugal saver. Not only is it hard to build wealth if a lot of money is heading out the back door way of credit card bills, etc, but the impact of differences in financial mindset can be staggering when magnified.
We are not talking about small potatoes such as what brand of toilet paper to buy; differences in financial mindset can lead to one partner wanting to purchase a brand new $40,000 car while the other partner would otherwise be ok with a 5 year-old model of the same vehicle that costs a fraction of the what the new model costs. These are real issues that spouses/partners with differences in financial mindset often face. No wonder it is so often touted that the most common cause of divorce is money.
When Mr. CMF and I got married, I was more of a spender. We’ve now been married for eight years and somewhere along the way he managed to transform me into more of a saver and investor. I’m honestly not sure how he did this or if he even tried. As we lived together and were married longer, somewhere along the way it became obvious to me that he did not spend nearly as much money on “things” or on himself as I did.
He is completely a long-term planner, and I saw that he wanted to save and invest money for our future rather than spend it today. I guess you could say that he rubbed off on me, and these days I don’t spend as much as I used to. However, I still probably spend more than Mr. CMF, who somehow manages to live a very spartan existence and claims to have few needs other than food, beer, and a few other things. I gave him a gift card to his favorite store for our anniversary in July and he’s still trying to decide what to spend it on for heaven’s sake.
So for those of you who are currently single and looking, I recommend scoping out your potential mate’s financial habits before you get too attached. How is that for a romance buzz kill? Seriously, it would be a good idea to think about the needs and wants of the future you. I recall that as a younger person I was totally oblivious to financial concerns when I got married, but somehow I got lucky.
For those of you who are already married or partnered up, I am certainly not suggesting that you ditch your partner over the size of the grocery bill. I think it takes a joint effort to help a marriage or partnership succeed, and finances are just one of the areas that you need to collaborate with you partner on. One thing that Mr. CMF and I did to help “get on the same page” in terms of our financial ideas and habits was we read a lot of the same financial books and talked about them together. This actually helped a LOT. Some of our favorites are:
What do you think? Are there other ways that you have tried in relationships to “get on the same page” financially?
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