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Financial conflict can lead to divorce – here’s how to prevent it

By Isabelle Coetzee

Talking about money is an intimate matter, and it may be uncomfortable for couples who’ve managed to avoid this discussion. However, it will become necessary at some point or other.

Do you think you’re ready to talk to your partner about money? JustMoney finds out how to approach money divisions and why this is important in any relationship.

Tip: Are you and your partner ready to buy your own home? Click here to get a quote for a home loan.

Talking about money makes your relationship stronger

Cheryl Benadie, CEO of Whole Person Academy, has found that a lack of communication over finances is one of the primary causes of break ups or divorce.

She believes that it’s important for the couple to establish clear and consistent communication about money as soon as possible.

“It is not an easy process, but over time this can be extremely rewarding, especially once the benefits of being on the same financial page is seen in the relationship. Talking about money can bring you closer to your partner – but it requires a foundation of honesty and trust,” says Benadie.

She recalls her own experience in discussing finances with her husband. Before getting married, he asked her to sign an antenuptial agreement.

“I was an extreme spender and he was an extreme saver. I had almost a million rand in debt, while he had none. By writing down everything I owed, I realised for the first time how my financial habits would influence someone else,” says Benadie.

“Soon after we got married, we both sat down and drew up a budget. He was willing to help me pay off my debt, and that made me more accountable about the way I was spending my money. There are often underlying emotional and psychological drivers to overspending, and I needed to face my hidden money beliefs,” she explains.

Even though her husband didn’t have any debt, he also wasn’t managing his money well. So, they helped each other make healthier decisions by being intentional about discussing it.

“We schedule a financial meeting in our calendar every month, and we talk about whether we’re falling back into negative cycles or whether we’re making progress on our joint goals. We’ve been able to pay off over a million rand in debt in four years – and we still live debt free today. Talking about money has saved our relationship and made it stronger,” says Benadie.

Are you the “saver” or the “spender”?

According to Sheila-Ann Robey, financial adviser at Lifeguards, the best piece of advice would be to have open and honest discussions regarding money and finances as a couple.

“Each couple is unique and they have unique financial needs, as individuals and as a household. The best way to understand how your money can work for your household is to create and maintain a budget, and then, as far as possible, stick to that budget,” says Robey.

Similar to Benadie’s experience, Robey has also found that within a household there’s usually a “saver” and a “spender”.

She also agrees that open and honest discussions are crucial to the financial success of any household. Regular interactions with a qualified financial adviser who acts as a professional sounding board for the tough financial decisions that couples are faced with, is one way to mediate these compromises.

“As a financial adviser, I am often faced with situations where the differences in a couple’s relationship with money affects their relationship with each other,” says Robey.

She considers it her duty to assist a household with this, and to view it as a tool for them to achieve their desires. Remember, what you may view as a “compromise” is in fact “consideration” for not only your spouse, but also for your future self - because, where your heart goes, your money follows.

READ MORE: Sceptical about financial advisers? Here’s how to find one you can trust

Pooling funds avoids conflict

Robey points out that each couple’s situation will be different and will require a suitable solution to best address monthly expenses.

“Factors such as marital regime, breadwinner status, and individual debt play an important role in determining how to address expenses,” says Robey.

However, her advice is to pool funds together to attend to monthly expenses as a household, so as to avoid overspending or unnecessary spending or creating unnecessary debt.

“If one spouse is responsible for a grocery bill, and the other for a utilities bill, this may seem fair on the face of it. But if one spouse is faced with an unexpected spike in his or her monthly expense, this could be the cause of unnecessary financial strain and tension in the household,” says Robey.

On the other hand, if funds are pooled together in a household budget and spent accordingly, the management thereof becomes an easy, regular, and expected part your daily life, and supports a household to achieve their financial goals when the couple is committed to same,” says Robey.

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