Sound money management can strengthen your marriage

South African coins.

Arguments about money can put significant stress on a marriage and this is likely to get worse in an underperforming economy where households are struggling to make ends meet.

Insights gained through feedback from financial education workshops show that the way people manage money is extremely personal, says Shafeeqah Isaacs, DirectAxis’ head of consumer education.

As a result, it’s easy to feel criticised, even if your spouse is offering well-intentioned advice or suggestions.

“It’s important to appreciate that no matter how much you have in common, your partner’s attitude to money may differ significantly from yours. It’s something that’s shaped from childhood and which you’re unlikely to change. It also doesn’t necessarily make your approach right and theirs wrong.”

Discussing and understanding each other’s views about money and deciding how you’re going to manage your finances together is an important first step.

So is honesty about your individual financial situations, and that needs to start before you tie the knot.

For example, one partner bringing burdensome debt, such as a large student loan, into the relationship can become a source of contention.

“You need to be upfront about where you are financially and disclose any long-term debts and what you’re doing to try and settle these.”

This means knowing where you and your fiancée stand financially – not just how much you earn or have in your bank account, but how financially responsible you are. The best way of finding out how the financial world regards the pair of you is to check your credit scores, says Ms Isaacs.

By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report annually.

When both of you know where you stand as a couple, it’s a good idea to work out a household budget together and agree who will be responsible for what. It’s also sensible to set some financial goals that the two of you can work towards.

Once your goals are set, another good tip is to have a regular, ideally monthly, financial chat. Don’t make it a burden, just a discussion over a coffee, glass of wine or on a date night, about where you are financially as a couple, where you’d like to be and how you plan to get there.

“As with any other aspect of your relationship it’s important not to sweep financial issues under the carpet. Deal with them when they happen, together,” says Ms Isaacs.