About half of all marriages fail in the United States. The stats may be favourable in most third world countries like Kenya but we have had an increase in divorce cases in the recent past. These days, marriage is hard work and money tops the list of the reasons why people go separate ways. By money, it is not just the lack of it that causes tension in families, but even the rich are divorcing because of money.
The reason why money is a major reason why people get divorced is because men and women view money differently. In the old days, the men would go hunting and someone would try and get the biggest animal. The women would look at it as a form of security while the men would look at it as a form of power and status. The situation is the same with money in the present. Most women tend to view money as a form of security while men will look at it as a form of power and status.
Having established that men and women view money differently – in the same way that women need their toilet seats down, while men do not have a clue why the seat being down or up is of any importance – it is important for couples to discuss finance issues before they get married. This will help in coming to a middle point and avoid unnecessary tensions over the use (or misuse) of money. Here are some of the things couples should discuss.
People learn about money in the environment they are brought up, the experiences they have been through and what they have seen those around them go through. In this regard, different people will have different views on money. A certain pastor told me that he ensures that his children tithe every shilling he gives them. He made them start at an early age, so now it is not a problem. These kids will grow up with that philosophy. Different parents will influence their children differently with regards to finances. It is important for couples who want to get married to discuss their philosophies towards money. Everyone has a philosophy; most people are just unaware of it. At the time of discussion, someone will realize how different their views on money are from those of their partner.
Even though merging two incomes is good, it still means the two of you will not afford everything. There are some needs and wants that are more equal than others. Unfortunately, what may be important for one person may not be important for another. Most men do not budget for hair cuts. Most women, on the other hand, need to set up some money for the salon. Long term financial goals are also different between different people. It is important for both parties to come up with a list of their financial goals and merge the goals, discussing which ones would get priorities over the others.
It always makes financial sense to save for a rainy day. However, different people have different views on savings. Most importantly, how much or specifically, what percentage of the income needs to be saved? How is the money to be saved? Will it be put in a bank account or in a SACCO or in an easily liquidated security? Since the savings are for a rainy day, the parameter, ‘rainy day’ should be defined. What exactly constitutes a ‘rainy day?’ What rules need to apply to the withdrawing and use of the savings and so on.
Couples need to discuss any debt they may have before they get married. Getting married means the debt(s) may have to be shared and as such, it is imperative no one attempts to hide any debt. Once the discussion of debt has occurred, the couples also need to discuss how they will pay the debt or what plans are in place. Is it a loan that is paid in a salary cut-off system? Is it a SACCO loan that you are paying and how much is the monthly outlay on the debt?
At some point, the couple will retire. Couples need to think of where and when they will retire. They also need to know how much they want to have saved by the time they retire. Since every financial decision they make will influence the retirement package they will get, they will have to set up clear goals on saving for retirement and generally avoid buying on impulse. Every decision will be made with the end goal in mind.
It is difficult to ask anyone about their income, but if you are planning to spend the rest of your life with them, it may be important for you to know or at least have an idea. Before getting married, talk to your future spouse about your assets and liabilities. Your current income and any probable future incomes. Find out if your combined income will be able to support your new family and what adjustments need to be made.
Agree on who is responsible for what
Once you know your joint income, it will be easy to be clear on who sorts what bill. This is generally an understanding between the couple. Who will be paying rent? Who will be paying for the house shopping etc. In some instances, it is one person who will be paying for all the bills because of one reason or another (it is him/her who is working etc). It does not matter, as long as the two are in agreement. Even if one person handles the bills does not mean the other should be in the dark. Always ensure you are on the same page. You also need to discuss if you will be having a joint account and who will be the chief financial officer of the family.
There is much more to discuss about finances before couples get married. What is important is to have the discussion before getting married, and a lot of problems will be solved since the couples put guidelines on how to handle the sensitive money issues.