Any stable, committed relationship is the bedrock of personal success in life. The same can be said for financial success, too. In fact, those who remain in a marriage or other long-term relationship, actually have better financial stability. Score one for the home team.
However, there is not “magic formula” for staying in a healthy relationship. Each one has its own challenges. Marriage between two people changes dramatically over the course of a lifetime. There are many different stages that appear throughout the course of a marriage: the honeymoon stage, child rearing, empty nest, and finally retirement. With each stage comes different challenges both personal and financial.
Marriage and Finances
Focusing on the relationship part of marriage, many people believe that it is a 50/50 partnership. However, both people in the relationship have to give more than half of an effort. Since people are different, they have different strengths and weaknesses. This means that sometimes one partner feels as if they are carrying more of the load, while at other times, they are not. Keeping score can be a dangerous habit in a marriage.
When a marriage feels stressful, it may be a good time to sit down, talk to the other partner, and stop taking yourself and your agenda so seriously. Ignoring the problems in a relationship only end up hurting the relationship. Couples that can recognize and work through these stressful times come out stronger and last longer.
Those who don’t believe that finances are a huge part of any relationship are feeling around in the dark. Finances are intricately tied up with a marriage. There are actually very few strong marriages where both couples weren’t on the same financial page. Shared values on the worth of material things in time and money is an essential part of building a life together. Those shared values lead to a certain lifestyle where there are particular patterns of earning, spending, and saving.
In a perfect world, each person in the relationship would be adept at managing investments, cash, and taxes. However, this is hardly ever the case. Instead, one partner is usually more interested in the money part of the relationship. This is where communication is key. Sharing the same long-term goals is vital to a stable financial relationship.
For the day to day cash management aspect of a partnership, many couples share a joint checking account. Even if they have separate credit cards, successful and smart couples are joint on the account of the other to protect each one from the sudden death of the other. Second marriages can be a bit different if each person brought in their own assets into the marriage. However, even these couples should have some type of joint account.
When it comes to retirement accounts, it should go without saying that each couple lists their mate as a beneficiary, even in second marriages. This trust and knowing that one will still be able to take care of the other, even after death, is what marriage is all about.
Sharing the Risk
Even if one person in the partnership is a financial wizard and finds relaxation in watching the markets, it is vital to share views on risk. Even if one partner is comfortable with a high-risk fund, if the other person is not then some sort of middle ground should be reached. On the other hand, it would be unfair to not take any risk by putting all of a nest egg in an FDIC-insured savings account, only to find out that the investment has lost money due to inflation. Some risk needs to be taken, but only the amount of risk should be discussed between the two.
If you happen to be the financially savvy partner, then there needs to be a paper trail of tax records, account information, and passwords. Education of the other partner is only fair to you both, in the end.
Transitions in Life
Many couples who have lived through all of the marriage transitions, honeymoon, child rearing, empty nest, and retirement, state that the empty nest transition is the hardest and most disruptive change to a marriage. Finding out what to do after the children are reared is often a vast empty space for both partners.
When couples retire at the same time, they can then begin to enjoy the fruits of their labor through travel, time spent with grandchildren, or even volunteering. However, when one person retires before the other, there may be a need for the retired partner to take some of the stress off of the working partner by chipping in more with everyday chores.
Many couples find that they can actually retire early when both partners have worked during their marriage. Some retired couples actually continue to work even after retirement. This doesn’t mean that they go back to the job that they worked at for 30 years. Rather, it means that they take an optional part-time job that they enjoy, enhances their life, and where the income is seen as a bonus contribution to the pair. If the money is an obligation, then the retirement from the initial job should not have been taken in the first place.
Growing Together During Retirement
Couples who have planned for retirement are able to enjoy their retirement. Many individuals take this time to focus on their individual growth and development while supporting the other partner.
Bucket list items, new hobbies, and travel are just a few of the activities that couples can do together. However, finding time to work individually on a few areas keeps the relationship from boredom, burnout, or just getting on each other’s nerves.
The ultimate purpose of retirement should be to enjoy the wise investments and sacrifices taken together that bring both people to this point in their lives.