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College of Human Ecology

Talking marriage? Talk money first

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kristy ArchuletaCouples should have a talk about an important issue that will affect their future before exchanging their "I do's," according to Kristy Archuleta of Kansas State University's Institute of Personal Financial Planning Clinic.

"Couples need to talk about money before getting married," Archuleta said. "If you are already married, start talking now. Many couples know that talking about money is important but either fail or put off talking about it because money can be an emotionally charged issue."

Archuleta is a licensed marriage and family therapist who teaches in K-State's personal financial planning program. The clinic blends financial counseling with marriage and family therapy to help individuals, couples and families struggling both financially and emotionally. The institute is part of the K-State College of Human Ecology's School of Family Studies and Human Services.

Advice to bank on

Archuleta offers the following tips on what newly engaged couples or newlyweds should discuss when it comes to money:

  • Talk about each other's family history about money. "Families are often looked upon as the single most influential source of how to manage money," Archuleta said. "Understanding your own family's money history is helpful in understanding why you manage money the way that you do. Equally important is understanding your spouse's family's money history. You will be better able to understand why he or she manages money the way that they do."
  • Discuss money management expectations. "Because families, friends, colleagues, media and schools have influenced how we think and feel about money, we develop differing expectations about how money should be handled," Archuleta said. "Having differing views or expectations about money is OK, but you have understand and respect why the other thinks and feels about money the way that they do."
  • Develop strong communication skills. If you are unable to talk about money effectively, you will have a difficult time resolving conflict about money, discussing family money histories and money expectations. These are key strategies to manage money together successfully, Archuleta said.
  • Develop effective conflict management skills. "Most couples will argue about money," Archuleta said. "Arguing about money is normal because couples have different experiences with money and have received different money messages from family, friends, media, colleagues and schools. A recent study showed that couples believe that money may not be the most argued about topic within the relationship, but it is the most intense issue fought about." The study, by Lauren M. Papp, E. Mark Cummings and Marcie C. Goeke-Morey, appeared in the February 2009 issue of the journal Family Relations.
  • Create a safe environment to talk about money. Timing is important, Archuleta said. "Don't try to discuss an important money issue while your spouse's favorite show is on television. Set a time and place to talk about money issues. Have your emotions in check, set fair fighting rules, and be respectful of the other's points of view. Most all, listen," she said.
  • Talk regularly about money and your budget. "Some individuals who manage the day-to-day budget do not include their spouse in on where they stand financially," Archuleta said. "This can cause extreme anxiety and stress for both spouses."
  • Set an annual date to review and update financial goals and objectives. Archuleta said setting financial goals are key to staying on track with a budget and achieving financial success. She recommends setting short-term goals for one year or less, mid-term goals for two to five years, and long-term goals for beyond your first five years together. "This makes it important to review goals each year," she said. "Other goals may change or the strategies in which to achieve those goals may have also altered."
  • Decide together about joint versus separate accounts. "Couples often ask the question about which is better: choosing joint or separate accounts. The answer is not a one size fits all; it depends upon the couple," Archuleta said.
  • Most financial decisions are not set in stone. "If the decision or strategy is not working, try something different," she said. "It is easy to be narrow-minded when financial stress is encountered, so it is important to take a step back and look at alternatives to solving the problem."

Prepared by Media Relations

This article was posted on Monday, June 15, 2009, and is filed under Family Studies & Human Services.