Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on February 2, 2012. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Healthy relationships need transparent credit histories
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Couples who want to avoid one of the most common argument topics should begin their relationships with total financial honesty.
Joe Wilmoth, assistant professor of human development and family studies in Mississippi State University’s School of Human Sciences, said many surveys reveal that finances are the No. 1 source of conflict in a marriage.
“Couples often enter a marriage with very different ideas about what money means and how it should be used,” he said. “One person may be frugal and save for a rainy day, while the other may want to spend money now in case it’s not there later. They also can have very different priorities, with one person wanting a nice car and the other wanting nice furniture.”
While money can be a source of conflict, Wilmoth said couples who communicate openly, clearly and respectfully often find that these conflicts are opportunities to grow closer.
“Create a climate where each partner feels secure -- assured that both people want to work together to make the relationship stronger and more satisfying,” he said. “Conflicts over money might actually be about deeper issues, such as being in control or feeling insecure about the future or about the relationship.”
Sheri Worthy, a professor of consumer economics in the School of Human Sciences, said before partners get to know one another financially, they each should first know themselves.
“Couples should take advantage of free credit reports, available from sources such as AnnualCreditReport.com, and find out about debts, assets, liabilities and net worth,” Worthy said. “Past behavior is often a good predictor of future behavior.”
Worthy said taking time to draw up a budget together is a good way to learn each other’s spending style, discuss short-term and long-term goals, and decide how to share responsibility for bills.
“When couples first get married, they need to update official documentation, such as names on bills, driver’s license, Social Security card, bank accounts and beneficiaries on insurance,” she said. “Decisions about wills and life insurance become more important after children enter the equation.”
Worthy encouraged couples with young children to start a college savings plan and investigate state plans to pre-pay for college.
“A good savings plan and rainy-day fund are important for long-term peace of mind,” she said.