Opinion

5 Financial Mistakes That Can Cost You Your Marriage

financial mistakes for couples

Joanne Poh

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Getting married is not easy, what with the cost of weddings in Singapore, so it’s worthwhile making the effort to stay married.

As all married couples would tell you, there are mainly 2 things that strain a marriage: sex and money.

We’re not here to teach you how to spice up your love life, but at least we can tell you 5 financial mistakes to steer clear of for the sake of a healthy marriage.

 

1. Keeping financial secrets 

Even if you and your spouse have a joint account, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that you might not know about.

In money-sensitive Singapore, many people feel too much shame to disclose situations like credit card debt, being saddled by hefty loan repayments and a less than stellar salary.

The problem with harbouring such secrets, other than the fact that you’re being sneaky, is that sooner or later they’re going to come out anyway, and when that happens your relationship is going to take a huge hit.

When you apply for a home loan, you can be sure your poor credit score is going to come to light in spectacular fashion when your loan applications get rejected.

Also, there’s nothing that kills romance faster than a visit from Ah Tiong the friendly loanshark and his merry band of runners.

So share about finances openly. It’s also good thing to also share with each other how much insurance coverage you have.

In a survey conducted by NTUC Income published in April 2019, shockingly, only 15% of respondents knew full details of their spouse’s life insurance plan. Yet, 80% of 329 respondents expressed that it’s important to have detailed information about their spouses’ life insurance plan so that they will not be caught offguard.

It’s important to talk about insurance because both of you have to ensure that you have adequate protection, especially if you have a child. Don’t just assume that your spouse should be knowledgeable about how insurance works and already have sufficient coverage.

Use an excel sheet or just a sheet of paper to list down all the policies you have, share it with your spouse and he/she should do it too. Evaluating insurance together can help you see what gaps to plug, and also you’d have an easier time claiming when any unfortunate happens (touch wood).

 

2. Not discussing big financial goals

When you were dating, talking about money might have seemed a bit presumptuous or even tacky. Not wanting to sound like a gold digger or get ahead of yourself, you might have steered clear of conversations about money.

Now that you’re married, though, it’s a whole different ballgame. Like it or not, marriage adds a whole new layer of responsibility to a relationship, and discussing your financial goals, both as a couple and as individuals, can no longer be avoided.

You might discover that your spouse dreams of owning multiple properties and is willing to take on a demanding job to reach that goal, while your main goal is early retirement. Is there a way you can reconcile the two goals and make them work hand in hand?

On the other hand, your spouse might reveal that upholding a certain lifestyle is important to him or her and that retirement planning is not a priority at the moment, because YOLO etc. This might be problematic if you’re feeling pessimistic about your financial future and have been wanting to downsize your expenses.

Whatever the situation, it’s better to find out early so you can come to a compromise before one party starts to lament all those wasted years.

 

3. Not accounting for family differences

While differences in upbringing can start to cause problems early on in a relationship, they are magnified considerably when money gets involved.

For instance, you may come from a family that has sound financial planning, and you didn’t even need to pay your student loan. On the other hand, your partner may have ailing parents who need financial support for the rest of their lives, because they don’t have enough for retirement.

In another scenario, what if your flat isn’t going to be ready for a few years and you’re keen to rent your own place, but your spouse thinks it’s more economical to move in with his or her parents?

Just because the two of you like all the same wedding bands and believe in the importance of universal suffrage doesn’t mean you’ll see eye to eye when it comes to issues like how much support to give your parents.

 

4. Not discussing your approach to parenting

Everyone knows kids cost money, but guess what, just like cars and condos, they cost a whole lot more in Singapore.

With one in two parents who engage tuition teachers spending more than $500 a month, unless one of you is willing to take a back seat when it comes to parenting, expect disputes to arise.

Education being one of the most pressing child-related topics in Singapore, it’s crucial to discuss how much you think is appropriate to invest in your child’s education and enrichment.

Are you going to become an all-out kiasu parent and spare no expense in sending your kid to a fancy kindergarten? Or would you prefer to invest more personal time than money?

Discussing parenting-related costs well before you start trying for a kid can also help you work out what you need to get your finances in order before it’s too late.

 

5. Not apportioning financial burden

Perhaps the male half of your union was too macho to let his female counterpart pay for a thing when you were dating.

But realistically speaking, unless one of you uses dollar bills instead of toilet paper, you’re probably going to have to come up with some sort of plan to divide your financial burdens.

This is a topic that many couples find incredibly sensitive, which makes it all the better to get out of the way early on in a marriage.

How detailed you want your plan to be really depends on how wealthy you and your spouse are. If you both have a six figure monthly income, it might seem silly to apportion the cost of groceries, since you have every meal at Waku Ghin at MBS anyway, right?

On the other hand, on an average Singaporean income, you’re going to want to clearly set out who pays for things like groceries, household items and kid-related expenses, as well as your arrangement as to property ownership and payment.

If you’re planning on opening a joint account, you will also have to decide how much each person has to contribute each month and what it can be used for, unless you’re fine with sponsoring your spouse’s car mods or shoe collection.

No one is saying you can’t treat your spouse to dinner every now and then. But knowing the rules can help to ease conflict because you won’t have to enter into a heated discussion every time you go to the supermarket.

Have you ever made any of the above mistakes? Share your experiences in the comments!

 

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.