’til debt do us part.
The emotional connection of money makes it very difficult for spouses to agree on spending habits, earning capacities, and priorities for managing money. That spells trouble.
How often is money an issue in divorces? More often than you think.
Win some, lose some.
Money represents dependency, control, freedom, security, pleasure, and self-worth. Yet, many couples are simply unable to navigate financial disagreements in their marriage. Their efforts to gain control of household finances can actually be counterproductive, with each partner tugging and pushing like two dogs fighting over a slipper. Financial planners tell us that money is one of the most common reasons for divorce, citing differences in spending habits and a lack of communication.
Karma karma chameleon…
Nearly 60% of divorcees admit that money played some role in their breakup, according to Experian (2017), a consumer credit reporting agency. A whopping 66% said their ex’s spending habits were different than expected after getting married. Many said the only thing they knew about their Prince Charming or Princess Perfect [before getting married] was their annual income; only 31% knew their spouse’s credit score beforehand.
Sociologist Alexandra Killewald (2016) attributes much of the risk of divorce to the husband’s employment status. Examining 46 years of data on more than 6,300 heterosexual married couples, she discovered that husbands who aren’t employed full time have marriages that are one-third more likely to go south. Although expectations of wives as homemakers may have eroded, the “husband as breadwinner” norm persists, the study concluded.
Young couples avoid discussions about money before they say “I do” because they feel it creates conflict and undermines romance and trust. This is a huge mistake (see: Livin’ on love). Smitten by love (projection trap*), the lack of open, positive conversation may trigger a nuclear explosion down the road. And the fallout from the blast can crimp your lifestyle long after the ink on the divorce decree has dried.
A former spouse, for example, may default on a loan, commit fraud, file bankruptcy, or become disabled. In the Experian survey, 44% of respondents said their ex ruined their credit. Additionally, some transactions performed in conjunction with a divorce such as alimony, child support, or a home sale may—in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service—be considered a taxable event. That’s tax-speak for “cough up more dough” on April 15th.
Many couples are extended financially beyond their combined means, let alone singularly. Since your spouse will no longer be helping you financially, one big issue for NeXters is dealing with a drastic reduction of income. It will be virtually impossible to maintain your previous standard of living since some expenses cannot be proportionally reduced. Here are just a few examples:
Did you support your partner through college? If you decide to split following graduation, your ex has just won the lottery. Are you likely to inherit a sizable chunk of money or property? If that comes through before the divorce—cha-ching—they pass “Go” and collect half. In the extreme, couples may suffer their own Nightmare on Elm Street, where they cannot stand living together yet cannot divorce because of financial obligations. You don’t want to be there.
Fail to appreciate how different your financial situation will be after the “Big D” and your lifestyle will almost certainly take a hit, possibly a big one (projection trap*). Sure you will overcome, but learning to adapt based solely on “ex”perience can be painful to both ego and wallet. Why not make the right choice the first time? It’s a helluva lot more fun!
It’s tough. After five years of marriage, it’s difficult to
lose the one with the good credit rating.
~ Rich Vos, comedian
* Questionable beliefs can “trap” our better judgment, leading to poor decisions and unintended consequences. In the projection trap, we focus attention solely on our immediate situation and underestimate how different our tomorrow will be. Learn more about these, and other interesting topics, in the Young Person’s Guide to Wisdom, Power, and Life Success.
I love taking my message directly to students and groups of young persons! If you would like me to speak at your school, not-for-profit, or corporate event, please use the Contact Form and enter “Speaker” in the subject line. We’ll work out the details. ~ Brian