Singaporebrides | Relationships

October 2017

5 Tips On How To Agree On Money Matters After Marriage

Even as you vowed to be together in sickness and in health, in good times or bad, it’s important to realise that so much in marriage – and life – boils down to dollars and cents. The key to wedded bliss lies in good money management, and SingaporeBrides lists five tips to get your money matters right.

Money matters tend to be far from the minds of happy newlyweds. But once the joyous whirlwind of the wedding has settled, leaving a trail of bills in the dust, reality will set in.

What many young couples fail to realise is that aligning money attitudes before the start of their new lives is just as important as deciding between Scandinavian and Industrial design themes for their new Build-to-Order flat. That’s because fighting about money is a major reason why some marriages don’t work out. In a 2016 Prudential Relationship Index based on an online survey of 500 Singaporeans, one in four married couples are considering divorce. In fact, 41 per cent admitted that they argue about money.

While this may seem like a grim prognosis when you’ve barely exchanged vows to spend the rest of your life together, there are steps you can take to prevent money matters from ruining your marriage.

Image from Rebecca and Johnathon’s Charming Solemnisation at Skyve Wine Bistro by Smittenpixels Photography

1. Start talking about money

It’s a good idea for couples to get the conversation started as early into their relationship as possible, ideally before marriage. But it’s better late than never. Consider consulting a financial adviser to get professional advice on mapping out your financial future as a team. This helps you to know where you stand financially, combine resources and set shared priorities, like planning for retirement.

“We found it helpful to read self-help books like ‘Financially Ever After: The Couples Guide to Managing Money’ by Jeff D. Opdyke,” says assistant marketing manager Vanessa Low, 29. “We also asked married friends for advice. From there, we decided to set an annual date, usually when we preparing to file our taxes, to sit down and openly discuss money matters like our household budget, insurance policies and investment plans, as well as whether we’re on track to reach our long-term goals like saving for a bigger flat.”

2. Cast out financial demons

Business owner Paul Khoo saw first-hand how his then-fiancée struggled with her parents’ financial woes and marriage breakdown. “That actually led to my wife being frugal to a fault,” the 39-year-old said. “She was easily stressed and uncomfortable whenever we had to fork out large sums of money, such as for our wedding and renovation. I didn’t understand at first, as I grew up in a comfortable middle-class family. I felt that she was making a big deal out of money that had to be spent anyway, and that actually led to many fights.”

For a couple with different backgrounds and upbringing – and different financial demons – it makes sense to share about how they view money, or how they were raised around money. Asking each other questions like “How have your parents’ money habits affected you?” or “What’s your greatest money fear?” will help you understand each other’s money strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, full disclosure about outstanding debts, loans and other financial obligations is a must, no matter how uncomfortable it gets.

Image from Bernie and Samuel’s Pastel Travel-Themed Wedding at The Fullerton Hotel by Antelope Studios

3. To merge or not to merge

Whether to have joint or separate accounts is the most fundamental financial decision that a couple will have to make. Broadly speaking, there are three ways – merge your money into one bank account, maintain separate bank accounts or do a combination of both. There is no right or wrong here, as it depends on the couple’s needs and preferences, like whether they want to reveal their earnings and savings to each other and how they prefer to pay for joint expenses.

“We decided to deposit 15 per cent of our monthly incomes to pay for joint expenses like banquet deposit and home renovations,” shares personal banker Tay Kok Leong, 33. The practice has not lapsed with marriage, but Kok Leong and his wife also maintain separate bank accounts for convenience’s sake. He explains: “We’re still using our joint account to pay for household expenses and big-ticket items like overseas holidays because it’s fuss-free. But we don’t see any need to close our own bank accounts because we want that freedom to spend our own money however we want.”

4. Don’t keep secrets

Money can be a sensitive subject. According to a Harris Interactive poll of 2,019 adults, 15 per cent revealed they have a secret bank account, 11 per cent lied about their debts and 11 per cent lied about how much they earned. And these are just small lies. However, they can easily lead to bigger deceptions – like a massive credit card debt – that could be viewed as betrayal, leading to a loss of trust and ultimately separation or divorce.

Michelle, human resource executive, carries a heavy burden. “My husband doesn’t know that I owe about $10,000 to a bank because I took a personal loan to help my sister out of a bad patch in her business. I wouldn’t be able to get the money back, so he would have disapproved. Naturally, I can’t tell him now too.” Such deceit can ruin a marriage, as Michelle’s husband will also be legally responsible for her debt. So, honesty is the best policy when it comes to money matters like this.

Image from Audrie and Eugene’s Dreamy Pre-Wedding Shoot by Smittenpixels Photography

5. Dream together

You’ve walked down the aisle, so you’re in this for the long haul. As money permeates every aspect of your life, it’s only natural for both of you to set long-term financial goals together. Are you dreaming of upgrading to a condominium in District 9, 10 or 11? Or, are you hoping to retire earlier to travel around the world? Long-term goals usually take more than five years to come to fruition, and it takes disciplined saving and savvy investing to get you to the finish line.

“Putting down a deposit for our flat actually motivated us to think what we are working towards in the long-run,” shares civil servant Jocelyn Tong, 33. “So we met with an independent financial adviser, who took over the management of both our separate insurance policies and investment portfolios. He also discussed our financial goals before advising further.” This is a good start, but as life goes on and things change, priorities may shift too. As time goes by, it’s important to ensure that your financial goals are aligned.

Ultimately, there is no one ‘right’ way to manage money as a couple. As long as the money management rules in your household has been agreed upon and clearly understood by both parties, things should work out nicely. When in doubt, simply treat your partner as you would want him or her to treat you. While this may seem obvious, many couples actually forget to do so after they’ve been married for years. So, remember to check in on each other regularly to ensure you’re both on the safe track to financial security.

Credits: Feature Image from Nadiah and Shahdan’s Rustic and Vintage Wedding Celebration by Bliss Photo+Cinema

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5 Tips On How To Agree On Money Matters After Marriage