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Marriage, Divorce and the Cost of Not Talking About Money

A new article by personal finance expert Erica Sandberg talks about “Six Money Tips For Late-in-Life Divorces.”  Tips for exiting an extended marriage include:

  1. Employ a lawyer, judiciously.
  2. Create a “Now I’m Single” budget.
  3. Prepare for merged debt.
  4. Plan to spend your settlement carefully.
  5. Be house smart.
  6. Discuss your finances with trusted loved ones.

Not surprisingly, the article notes that “when one partner has always assumed the money management duties, the other is left with atrophied skills and a dangerous lack of awareness about how much they may own or owe.” Sandberg quotes Elizabeth Durso Branch, family law attorney and partner at McCurley, Orsinger, McCurley, Nelson & Downing  in Dallas, who says:

“One would be surprised how many spouses have no idea what the other spouse earns, has in a 401(k) or even where their spouse banks.”

Money Habitudes reveals that the exercise provides couples with a healthy framework to discuss money, even unveiling money secrets. Couples often neglect to establish early communication about the taboo topic of money, reinforcing the belief that “we don’t talk about money.” Studies consistently show that money is the main cause of couple arguments, prompting avoidance to prevent conflict. In some cases, one partner may find it convenient to manage finances alone, keeping their significant other out of the loop due to disinterest or a desire to avoid inconvenience.

A common solution to this scenario is for couples to schedule regular financial updates where the person who likes dealing with the finances updates the other about what accounts they have, how much is in each, what insurance policies they have and what they cover, what the house, car, etc. are worth and the like. If one partner doesn’t share details about their earnings, bonuses, or 401(k) balance, it doesn’t always mean they’re being purposely mean. But not talking about these things can make relationship issues worse. When there’s a lack of communication or information, it might seem like there’s no trust. This can lead to big problems, and sometimes even divorce. Couples use Money Habitudes in different situations, either on their own or with therapists. It helps them start a good, helpful conversation about money.