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When a Spender Marries a Saver
(ARA) - There’s been so much planning: the guest list, the food, the honeymoon. Many couples are exhausted from making so many decisions and it’s tempting to take a break. But now that the wedding is over and the marriage has begun, it’s important to sit down with your partner and discuss your financial goals -- after all, shared goals are an important part of marriage. Unfortunately, many couples discover only after the glow of their special day has worn off that they have not yet discussed their financial affairs.

Money is often cited as the number one reason couples argue, regardless of income. It’s common for couples to have a “spender” and a “saver,” but there are other factors to consider as well. Often, disagreements occur because of different priorities. Think about your short-term and long-term plans: How quickly do you want to pay off wedding and honeymoon costs? Are you saving for a house? How will you deal with the debt one partner is bringing to the marriage? And what about retirement?

Research suggests our money habits are not based on income or education levels, but on basic human impulses. A financial behavior survey commissioned by Northwestern Mutual suggests there are common money mistakes most of us make that could have long-term costs for our financial well-being. For two people combining their finances, these misbehaviors can have an even greater impact.

“It appears that no one is immune from several common ‘blind spots’ that stand in the way of good financial decision-making,” says Deanna Tillisch, director of Northwestern Mutual’s research in behavioral economics. “But we also know that when people are aware of their blind spots or misbehaviors, they are much better equipped to build a financially secure future.”

These blind spots are actually theories in a new science called behavioral economics. Behavioral economics helps explain how and why people make financial decisions. This latest round of research confirmed that “framing,” the idea of basing decisions on how the choices are framed, continues to plague decision-makers. For example, the Northwestern Mutual survey asked participants if they felt they could comfortably save 20 percent of their household income. Half of the respondents said “no.” Then participants were asked if they could comfortably live on 80 percent of their household income. Seventy-one percent said “yes.”

The two situations presented the same outcome, but people chose different answers based on how the questions were framed. If you’re trying to get out of debt, or save for a down payment on a home, keep this in mind and try to look at the situation objectively from different angles.

Another common financial misstep is mental accounting. In the survey, respondents were asked to judge how they would spend their money in two apparently different retail situations. While most people said they would drive to a store 20 minutes away to save $8 on a $10 alarm clock, most would not make the drive to save $8 on a TV. In both instances, driving 20 minutes would save $8. The lesson here is that we tend to approach decisions differently depending on the situation and assign different values to different categories or “mental accounts.”

“We all have different financial hang ups,” says Tillisch. “It’s important to sit down with a financial professional that can look at your individual situation and create a workable plan. A professional can be that unbiased third party that assists you in creating solutions that are comfortable for both of you. Ultimately, this person should guide you in making better choices.”

Unhealthy financial habits can be difficult to change. That’s why communication is essential. Talking with your partner -- even scheduling regular “money meetings” -- should be a priority. Understand that comfort levels can differ and strategies can vary. But money doesn’t have to be a source of conflict. A meeting with a financial professional can get you off to a good start toward building a sound financial future together.

Courtesy of ARA Content