Home / Money / Personal Finance /  How married couples can avoid conflict over finances

Marriages are made in heaven. But they are maintained on earth. So, while love, romance, trust and fidelity are important, money and finances also play a crucial role.

Managing money in marriage can be tricky because it involves two individuals, two merging financial situations and two salaries if both spouses are working. Incidentally, money is one of the top issues that couples fight over.

Different couples may handle their finances in different ways, and what works for one couple may not work for another. But here are five means couples can employ to manage their finances.

Keep it separate: While marriage is a merging of minds and finances, it is recommended that couples hold separate accounts. “When income sources are separate, it is better to keep the bank accounts separate as that will simplify segregation from income tax point of view. The other spouse can certainly be a second holder in the bank accounts as well as all investments," said Suresh Sadagopan, managing director and chief executive officer, Ladder7 Wealth Planners Pvt. Ltd, a fee-only financial planning firm. That said, investments and expenses should ideally be in the same proportion as one’s income, to ensure equity.

Bengaluru-based couple Debasish Saha (47) and Shubha Saha (40) keep their accounts separate, but have a joint account that they use for funding certain purchases and vacations. In fact, in the initial years of marriage, a joint account is not required as couples may feel a sense of loss of financial independence.

Prepare a budget: Sit with your spouse and list down all your expenses. It is important to have an idea of the total family expenses. The couple can decide if they want to reduce their overall expenditure by cutting discretionary expenses. Once you have a fix on your household expenses, figure out individual expenses. Here, is it important to understand that the needs of both spouses would be different. “Both should know their income and expenses well. If one faces financial difficulties or spillover of expenses, the other spouse should not hesitate to pitch in. Make sure an emergency fund is created as one unit," said A.K. Narayan, founder, A.K. Narayan Associates.

Share responsibilities: “It is a good idea to separate regular expenses and share them in proportion to one’s earnings. Beyond that, personal expenses or luxuries can be handled individually. However, individual expenses also should be measured and should be such that it does not jeopardize overall goals," said Sadagopan. Debasish and Shubha have agreed to divide their expenses. While the salaries for maid and other help and the EMI for their home loan is borne by Shubha, Debasish takes care of utility bills, school fees of their two daughters, Anondee (14) and Mrinmoyee (11). He also takes care of insurance premiums of life and health insurance.

Shopping for household necessities, done weekly, is shared. “Since Shubha works for a public sector bank and is eligible for a low interest rate loan in her name, she handles the loan EMIs," said Saha.

“As far as possible, credit card expenses should be met from their respective accounts," said Narayan. The only exception is in the case of capital expenditure like when washing machine, refrigerator or television is bought jointly.

Plan investments: Couples should plan their goals and investments in detail.

“It is important to have a good financial planner who will offer advice to the couple to understand their goals and help them save money to achieve their goals," said Narayan.

The Sahas ensure that a certain portion of their incomes gets invested every month in mutual funds. “We use Scripbox because it helps us view all our investments in one place," said Saha.

They also invest separately in their own PPF accounts and Sukanya Samriddhi schemes for their daughters. Shubha also invests in certain FDs and mutual funds on her own through her bank. When it comes to the joint account, they mostly use the money to plan vacations.

Couples also need to plan for the long-term goal of retirement. “When couples invest in their names, it is ultimately going to be used for family needs and their own retirement needs. It does not matter if one person retires earlier than another. In such a case, some income may have to be set up as one person has retired. When the other spouse retires, the total required income needs to be set up," said Sadagopan.

Have money conversations: Couples should have money conversations as often as possible. “It is ideal that both spouses are involved in financial decisions. Sometimes, this does not happen. In these instances, the spouse should at least know what is being done for the family," said Sadagopan. The Sahas regularly discuss topics such as buying property, vacation, kids’ education and medical expenses and plan for them.

There is no right or wrong way to manage money as a couple. But with communication and planning, it is possible to have a marriage that rests on stable financial grounds.

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