Get Naked With Your Finances


Why getting naked with your finances as a married couple is important and how to undress.

When couples come to see me they’re usually eager to talk about intimacy. They want emotional intimacy. They want spiritual intimacy. They definitely want sexual intimacy. But financial intimacy….wait….what?! You want me to get naked with my finances?

Does the sound of that send you running for the hills and vowing to stay single forever? Let’s take a look at why joining your finances to your partner feels harder than having sex or meeting the in-laws.

Years ago, couples got married in their early 20’s shortly after landing their first jobs. They set up house, went to work, and opened a joint checking account. They learned about saving and investing and financially grew up together.

Today’s couples, however, are a little older when marrying. Many are choosing to complete advanced degrees, establish themselves in careers and become financially secure before tying the knot. By the time they get together, they have already been managing their finances separately in some fashion or another. They have two perfectly good systems (Thank you very much!) and may decide to continue on in marriage the same as when single.

“I’ll pay mine and you pay yours” has some pitfalls as a marriage plan. First let’s talk about a few reasons why you might want to get financially naked with one another.

First of all, most states are community property states for marital partners. That means that when you earn $1, your spouse has earned 50 cents of it. It also means that when he spends $1, you have spent 50 cents. Yes, you can have a Prenuptial Agreement that sets out the terms of your marriage dissolution, but while married, it’s all ours. Why pretend this isn’t true?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your spouse is lying awake worrying about that overdue bill just as you are? The worst thing for a marriage is for one partner to be carrying the stress and concern about finances, while the other dreams on. This kind of unequal sharing of responsibility leads to resentment.

Isn’t marriage all about shared dreams and goals? It builds intimacy for the two of you to work together to make them come true. Whether you’re saving for a vacation, a house or your children’s educations, being in it together is why you got married. There’s nothing better for an adult’s self-esteem than to know that he or she has contributed in a meaningful way to the quality of her’s and her partner’s life

So where do we begin?  Getting financially naked can be viewed as the slow strip tease of taking off your layers of protection and hiding about money.

  • One of the first things I ask couples is to examine is how transparent they’ve been in discussing their personal assets and debts. I’m constantly surprised at how many people don’t actually know whether or not their partners are carrying debt, have savings, or even how much they earn. Take that layer of protection off first. When married, assets, debts and income have implications for both of you. Share the information.
  • Make a commitment to have at least one shared spending account. Your mortgage or rent, insurance, utilities, cars, food, entertainment, cell phones, etc. are all shared expenses and can be paid from a shared account. I recommend that you have a “household account” and that you work jointly to set up a budget for those expenses. If you’ve been secretly overspending on shoes, now is the time to come clean. Your budget needs to be honest and realistic. This is also a time to set up at least one savings or investment account for those mutual dreams. Do it together and be sure to discuss who will actually take responsibility for paying those bills and monitoring the accounts.
  • Bring your best communication tools to the discussion of trust in managing your finances. People sometimes mistakenly think that money is merely a pragmatic issue. Wrong! That’s like saying sexual relating is merely a biological urge! No, it’s emotional, as well. Depending on your early childhood experiences with money in your family of origin, money will symbolize security and power. Your joint plan must give each of you the sense that you’re saving enough to feel safe and able to spend enough to feel empowered. You will most likely have differences in these areas, so get help if your sharing gets too conflicted or stuck.

I hope that you’re feeling a little more confident about why and how to get naked with your finances. Marriage is about building a life together and finances play a major role in that endeavor. You are not the same two people and so differences will most likely exist. Start with naked truth and move through how to manage the emotions that come up as you navigate creating and maintaining a joint financial plan.

This article was originally published at www.mkcocharo.com/blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.