Money is one of two things most couples argue about (the other being sex.) The way to avoid this is open discussion and involvement in the family finances.
Don’t bury your head in the sand about your finances. Everyone has a right to know what comes in and out of the household finances, regardless of whether that spouse works or not.
Wanting to be Involved in Household Finances is Not a Bad Thing
Taking an interest in the family finances should not be taken as an indication that poor money management has occurred. Making the time to sit down with your spouse in order to review the current state of the family finances and outline long term goals will minimize the likelihood of conflict in the future.
Here are a few starting points:
- What are the balances of your bank accounts (checking, saving, money market, brokerage accounts)? What accounts are joint or individually owned?
- Should you discuss plans for college for children (if applicable)?
- What life insurance policies are in place? Who are the beneficiaries?
- What sources of retirement funds does the family have (IRA’s, 401(k), etc)?
- What debts are outstanding (mortgages, equity lines, car loans, credit cards, etc.)? What debts are joint or in your name alone? Have you looked at your credit report to see if it is correct?
- Do you review and understand your tax returns prior to filing? Do you have access to copies of your tax returns?
- Does your family have a budget? Should one be put together?
Be Wary if Your Spouse Refuses to Include You in Financial Matters
If your spouse will not reciprocate in your request for information, this could potentially be a red flag that there are financial problems that they are trying to hide. On the other hand, it is not productive to criticize past money management when you had never had an interest in the topic before. Keep the tone of the meeting as one based on fact finding, and not for the purpose of accusing the other of wrongdoing.
Clear, Un-emotional Communications is Essential
Here is an example of how poor communication can be financially devastating: overspending by one spouse may be compensated by using the equity line on the house by the “bookkeeper” of the family to keep the family afloat financially. Then the overspending spouse discovers there is no equity left in the house and there is now a $50,000.00 debt owed against the family home.
The over-spender may have never spent so much if they knew how the bill was paid yet the family “bookkeeper” did not want to provoke an argument on how much money the “over-spender” was spending by discussing the situation (especially if previous discussions ended in a screaming match.)
It is so easy for this to happen, and it can happen to anyone. This is why talking about these issues in a calm and respectful manner are so important.
Have Regularly Scheduled Times to Discuss Household Finances
I would suggest having these “money meetings” at least every 30 to 60 days if possible. If a face to face is too much pressure, do it by email or by phone. With so many documents available on-line, it is easy to attach a bank statement or other relevant document to the email that relates to the discussion.
This advice applies to any couple, married or not, that consider themselves a single economic unit. Open communication, mutual respect and honesty are the keys to a good relationship of any kind.
Get Help from a Financial Planner
If you two need assistance getting on the same page concerning the family finances, a financial planner can be a great help. This is an individual who can help with budgeting and assisting you in making long term financial plans to obtain your financial goals.
Speak to a Raleigh Divorce Attorney Regarding Your Case
If you have concerns regarding how the family’s finances are managed and what your rights are with regard to separation in North Carolina, please schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys who will be happy to assist you at 919-301-8843.
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