Paul Clitheroe
Paul Clitheroe

Get money matters right from day one of your marriage

THIS year around 120,000 Australians will get married, and let's face it, it's a pretty exciting time for them. And of course, everyone hopes it will last!

These couples have the opportunity to take a very simple step that could cement their marriage as a truly 'til death do we part' partnership - and, while it doesn't sound particularly romantic, it involves taking the time to talk about money.

No long term relationship is smooth sailing one hundred percent of the time, and financial pressures are likely to be experienced by most couples at some stage.

The way we handle these pressures can highlight strengths, or weaknesses, in our relationships, and that's important because money has a well-deserved reputation for driving a wedge in even the strongest relationships.

Research from the US for instance shows that, on average, couples argue over financial issues about three times a month. British research found money ranked as the biggest cause of arguments between couples.

The situation isn't too different here in Australia.

Research by counselling group Relationships Australia found financial stress is one of the main reasons why relationships suffer.

Now, I freely admit I'm no relationship counselor but my experience in three decades as a financial planner tells me that high income couples are just as likely to go to war over money matters as battlers, so it's not always a lack of money that causes friction.

Often it can be as simple as having different views on money management, or working towards quite separate goals.

If you can get money matters right as a couple from day one, you will have eliminated at one least significant cause of relationship break down. It could spare you the emotional - and financial - devastation experienced by many of the some 50,000 couples who file for divorce in Australia each year.

I realise that discussions about how you manage your cash, how you afford the car loan repayments or balance your personal budget are hardly the sort of issues you raise during a candlelit first date.

The trouble is, by not talking about money from an early stage in a relationship that looks like it could last, it becomes much harder to broach the topic further down the track. And if you plan to share your life with someone, conversations about the serious side of money, like how you'll share the cost of regular bills, or build a pool of investments, or growth your wealth, are worth having.

If you're not sure how to get started talking to your other half about money, rest assured there is a wealth of support available.

Organisations like Relationships Australia offer affordable courses and counselling.

The federal government is offering a $200 subsidy to put towards relationship education or counseling through its Stronger Relationships scheme, which runs until 20 June 2015 - contact the Department of Human Services for details.

Or take a look at my new book Money, Marriage and Divorce, which describes strategies for couples to work as a team on money matters to enjoy financial security and the satisfaction of a lasting relationship.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.

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