A note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine, and Marguerita Cheng, CFP® Pro, host of the popular podcast Margaritas with Marguerita — Research shows that money arguments are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity. According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, high levels of debt and poor communication lead to stress and anxiety when it comes to finances. Nearly half of couples with $50,000 or more in debt say money is their top reason for arguing. Nearly 2/3 of all marriages start in debt. Is it inevitable? No, insists author and wealth psychology expert Kathleen Burns Kingsbury.
In Hope’s book, Why Divorce: 5 Reasons to Leave, we elaborate on these statistical realities with case studies and advice from experts like Kathleen who are determined to help us avoid divorce. In her books (pictured below), Kathleen provides the guidance we need to shatter money taboos, talk more openly about finances with our spouses — and live a richer life.
Scroll down for Kathleen’s powerful insights. Be sure to check out her podcast and video interview on Margaritas with Marguerita. And learn more about Kathleen and her books at breakingmoneysilence.com.
Money and Marriage: Insights from Kathleen Burns Kingsbury
1. It is not right to bring up money talks before marriage. When couples get engaged, that’s a great starting point — and an opportunity to talk about how you want to share your lives and live well financially. However, there are opportunities for couples to communicate about money at every life stage. When a parent passes away or when a child is born. Estate planning is another crucial issue, and unfortunately, most couples don’t do it soon enough. A great opportunity is to have the conversation well before you think you need it. A crisis is not the best time for making financial decisions. We live in a society where talking about money is taboo, even with your significant other. Couples will avoid having financial conversations because they bring on a conflict. Many of us were raised not to talk about money, even with loved ones. That gets in the way of developing a plan, which brings in honest communication. Financial conflict can even lead to divorce.
2. Love conquers all. We’re told that if you love someone, that conquers all. But you can love someone and be very different financially. That’s not necessarily bad, but if you can’t work it through, that causes conflict and split-ups. Moving to mature love is learning how to negotiate, talk, and manage together.
3. Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Why is it that a couple has the same fight over and over about what car to buy? Maybe it’s not the 30,000 price tag but how they grew up — in one person’s family, a car was something important, and in the other, it wasn’t. Saying “I’m sorry” when there’s a disagreement is essential as a way to forgive and move on. A great gift you can give your partner if you get upset with something they have done with money is to be able to look at why it was so upsetting for you, given your history with money. Couples can talk this through themselves, or an adviser can help them understand it.
4. Happily married couples are open and honest about money. A very high percentage of spouses lie about purchases they have made or hide them. Women hide accessories and clothing purchases; men tend to hide music and liquor. Do read Financial Infidelity: Cheating by any other name.
5. Couples should always agree about money. First, that seldom happens. And there are some real benefits to having different perspectives about money. Perhaps one spouse is more of a saver and the other more a spender; if you respect the differences, you can learn from one another and draw on one another’s strengths. Over time, you can find some middle ground, where maybe one loosens up, and the other learns to save more.
6. Women need to be rescued financially. Even some women buy into the idea that we need to be rescued financially–we bide our time, have a career, do whatever we need to do to get by, and Prince Charming will save us. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t trust your partner, but you never know what will happen. Divorce or premature death can unexpectedly leave a woman in the driver’s seat. Women are more economically powerful than ever before. But many of us have ambivalence about financial power.
7. Men are savvy; women are naive. The common assumption is that guys have it together financially and women don’t. What ends up happening is men are socialized not to show weakness. They may not understand something, but they’re not socialized to ask questions because they think it will make them seem vulnerable. More and more women are the breadwinners in their households now. We assume that means women will act like men when it comes to planning, but women still tend to be more collaborative with money management. This speaks to the fact that women are socialized differently than men. It will be interesting to see if there’s a change in that approach as women shoulder even more of the income-generating burden in households.
About Kathleen Burns Kingsbury — Wealth psychology expert and host of the Breaking Money Silence® podcast, Kathleen is an internationally published author and speaker. Breaking Money Silence®: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly about Finances, and Live a Richer Life is her fifth book. Named one of nine amazing conference speakers in 2017 by InvestmentNews, Kathleen is a sought-after keynote speaker, consultant, and coach on the topic of women and wealth and couples and money. Her mission is to empower women, couples, and families (and the advisors who serve them) to shatter money taboos and communicate more effectively about financial matters. Kathleen has appeared on television and written for consumer and trade publications as an expert on financial psychology. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, PBS News Hour, Money Magazine, TODAY Money, Forbes, and CNBC. Kathleen serves as an adjunct faculty member of finance at Bentley University and Champlain College. An avid alpine skier who lives for the next powder day when she is not working, in the off-season, Kathleen enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, and laughing with her friends. She lives with her husband and her cat Avery in the Mad River Valley of Vermont. For more information, visit www.breakingmoneysilence.com.