5 Important Reasons for Married Couples to Set Financial Goals Together

reasons for married couples to set financial goals

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.

Your Turn

How have goals strengthened your marriage?

shannon ryan

Shannon Ryan

Shannon Ryan, CFP® is a Mom on a mission to help busy parents teach their children simple, value-based principles that guide their money decisions and support their long-term financial well-being. Shannon wrote The Heavy Purse to help parents start money conversations with their children through a fun, bedtime story and developed companion workbooks to help deepen those conversations. Visit TheHeavyPurse to learn more on how to raise Money Smart Kids.

  Connect with Shannon on Twitter,  Facebook, and YouTube 


    • FI Pilgrim

      FI Pilgrim 09/25/2013 7:22 a.m. #

      Great post Shannon, this is a very important topic that doesn't get talked about enough. When my wife and I were going through our premarital counseling, we were asked to meet with one of the Elders at my church who is a CFP and investment manager. It's AMAZING how many differences come to light during financial discussions.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/25/2013 4:15 p.m. #

        Thanks! It really does make a huge difference. Couples who seem very in tune are often surprised by some of the things their partners want. Being able to set united goals can really strengthen a relationship, plus you help understand what motivates your partner too.

    • Michelle

      Michelle 09/25/2013 8:10 a.m. #

      Having financial goals are very important in a relationship. We've always had goals. However, I know of some couples who have never talked about it!

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/25/2013 4:21 p.m. #

        I'm glad you and W set goals together, although not at all surprised that you do! :) I agree that it is so important in a relationship and really brings you closer together too. Sadly, I know couples who never set goals together too!

    • Jake @ Ca$h Funny

      Jake @ Ca$h Funny 09/25/2013 9:52 a.m. #

      I completely agree with everything in this article. My wife and I always make sure we're on the same page and it really helps minimize the arguments we have. Money is the #1 cause of divorce, so agreeing on that can only help.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/25/2013 4:23 p.m. #

        Thanks, Jake! It's a little crazy how few couples really sit down and discuss their finances together. It seems like one person is left in charge. I couldn't imagine not talking to my husband (and our kids too!) about our goals. Knowing what we're working towards together, definitely helps minimize arguments and strengthens our bond. Glad you and your wife take the time to make sure you're on the same page too!

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 09/25/2013 9:54 a.m. #

      You know out of all my brothers and sister, I'm the only one who has joint accounts with my husband. Everyone else keeps their finances separately. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just works better for us, like we're really in it together, you know?

      One of our mistakes was not planning and I was definitely the spender back then. I still am but she's locked away :). Now we're both savers and when we spend, we plan and save money for it instead of reaching for the credit card or dipping into our savings.

      Thanks for sharing these tips Shannon! Very helpful info here! Happy Wednesday ladies!

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/25/2013 4:26 p.m. #

        I'm glad you and your husband are on the same page now and working towards common goals. Some couples prefer to keep things separate, which is perfectly fine, but still they should have goals they are working towards achieving together. Goal-setting is fun! I like dreaming with my husband (and kids too) on the things we want to do now and in the future. You have a great week too, Corina!

    • Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Famiilies

      Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Famiilies 09/25/2013 1:10 p.m. #

      Great post, I feel that married couples should always consult with each other on the big purchases, even, if they don't believe in combining incomes.

      I believe in sharing a bank account, debt, and everything with my spouse.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/25/2013 4:29 p.m. #

        I agree, Christy. It is important for couples to consult with each other on big purchases and set joint goals together, regardless of whether or not they have combined their finances.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 09/25/2013 6:17 p.m. #

      You must do it together in order to encourage the teamwork necessary to reach the goal.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/26/2013 10:31 a.m. #

        Agreed! Working from the same page makes it much easier and those goals are definitely helpful when temptation strikes too.

    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 09/26/2013 5:27 a.m. #

      I think it's definitely important for my wife and I to set goals together. It helps us move in the same direction as well as helps us be more understanding when we need to sacrifice. This blog has been a big sacrifice as far as time goes and my wife is understanding because she sees how it fits in with our goals.

      • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

        Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 09/26/2013 10:33 a.m. #

        Great point, DC. Sometimes to achieve goals we do need to make sacrifices, but understanding why we make that choice makes it easier to do and not feel deprived or upset. This is where couples who do not set goals together get stuck, which can result in a lot of miscommunication and hurt feelings that can spiral out of control.

    • Suzanne

      Suzanne 10/02/2013 4:54 p.m. #

      I love this topic. #4 is so true. My husband and I feel truly united because we talk about our goals. This is how we do it: Once per month, we review the previous month's goals, each person's business income, marketing actions, and places where we've fallen short. We have a word document that has a nice graph for us to fill-in-the-blanks for each month. Since we started doing this activity in January 2013, we have made amazing progress.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 10/04/2013 5:42 p.m. #

        I love your setup Suzanne! Very organized and very supportive for each of you, both personally and with your business.

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