It’s a known fact among matrimonial lawyers that divorce rates go up along with money pressures. In tough times like these, when we are shuttered in and facing a global health crisis, even the most solid marriages are not immune from rough patches that come with job instability, depleted investments, disappearing nest eggs, and layoffs.
But a silver lining for many couples in a bad economy is that tough times may be the best excuse for husbands and wives to open up about their finances. And if you can endure a little discomfort in the front end by airing out some financial dirty laundry, there’s a big payoff at the back end. Not only will you be strengthening your relationship with your spouse, but you’ll be protecting your family’s assets and assuring peace of mind that if financial turbulence hits your house, you’ll be better prepared -together- to weather the storm.
As a divorce attorney, I am no stranger to helping couples manage marriage and money. But you don’t need a professional or deep pockets to recession proof your marriage. To get started all you need to invest is a little time together at the kitchen table. With so many families holed up at home, that time is now.
My 5-Step Plan for recession-proofing your marriage:
1. Organize—Together, make a list or spreadsheet of all marital assets and debts, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts. Organize bills. Eliminate unnecessary recurring charges from services you may not be using, such as on-line subscriptions and memberships, expanded cable tv and streaming services, or even your gym membership. Stay ahead of money problems by knowing when and where to expect a bump in the road.
2. Equalize Control— Both spouses should share equally in the duties of paying bills and managing bank accounts. Couples fight less when one spouse isn’t left in the dark. In a partnership, both people should know what money is coming in and what money is going out of your marriage.
3. Prioritize—Decide together where and when to cut expenses, and the best way to spend your paychecks beyond required bills if money is tight. Focus now on building up a reserve if you suspect a potential for lay off or job loss.
4. Prepare—Stay-at-home Moms: Polish your resumes and update your skillset. Take on-line classes, webinars, certification training, and update your technology skills. Be ready and prepared to join the job market if necessary after the crisis, when your marital financial picture becomes clearer.
5. Disclose—Be Honest… with yourself and with each other. Air out disagreements on spending and debt with patience and respect. The world has changed, and we need to be gentle with each other. Continue to communicate openly about family finances, especially when things get rough.
Even if discussing money and finances falls outside your comfort zone, the best way to take care of your family is to put your financial house in order and communicate as partners about what’s happening under your own roof. As with most marriage issues, a little effort goes a long way.