First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the divorce lawyers? Sadly, it's what happens in 50% of marriages in North America. While irreconcilable differences are often cited as the cause for a divorce, I suspect if finances were an option, it would be a popular choice.
Having met with hundreds of couples throughout my twenty years as a financial advisor, I've seen how a lack of communication about money can cause significant problems in a marriage.
Sometimes the damage had seeped into other areas of their marriage and couldn't be undone. Other times the act of setting financial goals together saved their relationship and put them back on track.
5 Important Reasons for Married Couples to Set Financial Goals
When you made your vows, particularly "for richer, for poorer" to one another, I have no doubt that you meant it. But over time, a lack of communication can cause significant problems in a marriage, even a relatively happy one. Goal setting is one way to open communication and put you on the same path again.
1. Goals Let You Dream Together
One of the first things I ask my clients, is what do they want their money to do for them. Most of them don't have a specific answer. I get vague answers of retirement, but no idea as to when or what they want to do. This is your chance to dream together and envision what you want your life to look like now and in the future.
Where do you want to live? Will you have children? When do you want to retire? Why then? Why not earlier or even later? What will you do to occupy your time for the next 20, 30 or 40 years? Travel? Start a business? Do missionary work?
This should be a fun exercise and also give you insight into your spouse. Separately make a list of all the things you'd like to do and then share it with one another. Undoubtedly each of you may come up with a few ideas that don't resonate while others will surprise and delight you.
Once you identify which ones you mutually want to accomplish together, you have created your goals.
2. Goals Give Your Marriage Clarity
In a perfect world, you and your spouse would have similar money philosophies, but the real world doesn't always work so cleanly. It doesn't mean a "spender" and a "saver" cannot have a thriving marriage; it just means they have to communicate better. This is where having agreed upon goals can be so helpful.
You both know what you are working towards together. For a "spender", goals can serve as a good barometer on whether or not you should make a purchase, knowing that purchasing something unneeded has consequences. While a "saver" feels more comfortable spending money on its intended purpose and doesn't give pushback when it's time to write the check.
Most importantly, both of you are clear on how you want to use your money and make money decisions to support those goals.
3. Goals Help You Set Responsibilities and Plan for Your Goals
The success of achieving a goal should not fall on one person. Now that you have goals, you can create a plan to achieve them. I suggest you start by tracking your expenses and creating a budget. Be sure to treat the money you set aside for your goals the same way you treat your monthly bills—by paying them first.
For short-term goals, such as vacations, putting your money into a savings account may be suitable, but for long-term goals, like retirement, you will want to consider investing your money.
4. Goals Unite You as a Family
Beyond giving you clarity on how you want to use your money, goals also unite you as a family.
I know for me personally that working towards a common goal with my family and achieving something we care about so deeply keeps everyone motivated and focused. Another benefit is you will no longer dread money talks with your spouse that may have previously led to shouting matches, but instead look forward to revisiting your progress against your goals.
5. Goals Give Us a Reason to Celebrate
There is no better feeling than achieving one of your goals. Whether it's a dream vacation, a new home or retiring on your terms, celebrate your success and see it as a symbol of your strong marriage. You may have vowed "... until death do us part" and I would also suggest you vow to set goals and celebrate your successes as well.