In a Readers Digest survey of 1,000 married couples, 48 percent of wives and 49 percent of husbands said they kept how much they paid for something from their spouses1. Interestingly, couples with higher incomes lied more about what they spent. The point here is this; money is relative. The more you make, the more you spend!
To say this does not bode well for the relationship is putting it very, very mildly. A 2012 study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University found that one of the best indicators of marital discord is what he calls “financial disagreements.” Couples who fight about finances once a week are over 30 percent MORE likely to get divorced than couples who argue about finances less often. The rate of divorce increases to 69 percent if they fight daily.
In his study, Dew examined the responses of 4,574 couples surveyed by the National Survey of Families and Households in 1987 and again in 1992. Of all the issues that typically caused disputes: housework, in-laws, spending time together, sex and money; money disputes were the best harbinger of marital unhappiness and ultimately divorce.
Financial discord exacts a huge toll on a marriage. While people commonly get caught up in disagreements with regards to current spending habits, it’s the excessive accumulation of debt that becomes like an unwelcome stranger in their marital bed. Long before these couples even realize that they’ve been living well beyond their means, debt creeps up on them and wreaks havoc in their lives—more often than not, to the detriment of their relationship.
Although couples talk about whether they’re spiritually aligned, or how many kids they want, or if they want to live in the country or the city, they almost never consider their “financial compatibility.” They don’t discuss whether their views align with dual-income households, taxes, savings, or making a down payment on a house. And that’s the problem.
That’s why we created a financial compatibility quiz. The way a couple answers these questions will help them identify the areas that might prove problematic today or down the line. The questions are divided into five areas: Planning, Debt, Lifestyle, Trust and Risk. It’s the launching pad for couples to start serious discussions about money. We insist both parties take the quiz before working with them; they need to identify the areas on which they agree and those on which they don’t.
Even if you’re the most communicative couple who logs every financial purchase in a tiny green ledger, we bet there are topics on the quiz that you’ve never addressed because they haven’t yet come up. But one day they most certainly will…and you won’t be prepared. You’ll have different opinions on how to address them, and dealing with problems in the heat of battle is tough. Very tough. Our job is to help you avoid that trap.
Lots of couples who have taken the quiz worry about what it means for them in the long run. They fret that if they end up with radically different scores—which is to say, they discover that different things are important to each of them—then it means they’re doomed for Splittsville.
It’s entirely possible for couples to be incompatible in certain fiscal areas and succeed in the long run. Opposites attract in relationships, and that applies to finances as well (i.e., you like to keep a budget, but he doesn’t. He covets the latest gadgets, but you’re content to go without.) Those kinds of things can be easily worked out. But it gets a little tougher if he’s the sort of person who wants to donate to charitable causes and you’re more concerned about saving for retirement. People have different roles and responsibilities in relationships, but they must agree to communicate. That’s important. You’re never going to agree on everything, and that’s alright. But you’ve just got to be willing to talk through it.
To that end, a couple can be wildly compatible in the non-financial arena, and still ‘fail’ the quiz. For example, you can both be crazy spenders who are not interested in saving anything, who just want to live for today. We see a lot of people who pile up debt on their credit cards and don’t save a dime because, after all you only live once! They have a grand old time until the credit cards are maxed out and the collectors are constantly harassing them. THEN the fun really begins!
The quiz is divided into different sections relating to different aspects of your life. Each question has a compatibly/conflict component. For example, if you both want to devote 10 to 15 percent of your income on savings, it means you’re completely compatible. If one picks 0 to 5 percent (spender) and the other picks 20 percent or more (saver)—well then—it means you’re completely incompatible.
Each question also has a financial success component to it. As in the above example, couples who commit to saving (15 percent or greater of their income) in order to create a game plan for financial success will have a happier and healthier financial relationship! The earlier you commit to this basic principle, the quicker financial independence will arrive for you as a couple. Our definition of financial independence is the day work becomes an option. You don’t HAVE to go to work; rather you CHOOSE to go to work!
If you already have a financial plan—one that is written and well-thought-out— good! You are way ahead of the average American couple, but you should still take the quiz. Why? Because we have met with couples that have had sound plans, but the quiz brings up topics beyond core financial planning. When we give the quiz to them during our first meeting, it always stimulates a fruitful discussion about something important. Several of the topics go beyond just spenders and savers. For example: How are you going to deal with an elderly parent that can’t take care of themselves anymore? Who is going to raise your kids if something were to happen to you? Open communications early on will lead to less stress and better results later. Trust me! The ramifications of ignoring such emotionally charged issues until they are upon you can be dire, we have seen it firsthand. Yet, with a little discussion and planning, they can be aptly addressed prior to any unforeseen events. Keep in mind, estate planning is not just for the wealthy, everyone needs a plan. Without one, the government has a plan for you and it isn’t pretty!
The way we see it, you must undertake the five core strategies reach financial independence or financial freedom day! You’ve got to embrace them, and if that requires CHANGE, then commit to the change.