Updated on 02.02.15

Why Your Spouse Is Your Most Important Money Decision

Wedding photo

You may not realize it at the time, but your spouse can make or break you financially. Photo: Jason Sussberg

Whether you like Sheryl Sandberg or not, there is one thing she got right. She encouraged women to be extremely choosy when it comes to selecting a spouse. Sandberg writes, “I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.”

She was criticized for comparing marriage to a business relationship, but the core of her message is worthwhile for both men and women. In your career, your home life, but especially your finances, your spouse has to be deeply and aggressively supportive of your thoughts and decisions, and they have to be willing to meet you halfway.

To say it more succinctly, your spouse is the most important money decision you’ll ever make.

Your Spouse Can Make or Break You

Recently, I was watching a popular YouTube channel that features a young couple. The wife is pregnant and was about to go out shopping to help a friend pick out an outfit. Her husband reminded her as she walked out the door, “Remember, you promised not to buy anything today.” Inevitably, she found a cute maternity dress on sale and bought it anyway.

It might not seem like a big deal, but it rubbed me the wrong way. I really believe that each time you go against your spouse’s wishes when it comes to your finances, you display a level of disrespect for your family’s money. You also show that you can’t be trusted, exposing a crack in what is the foundation of any healthy marriage.

Similarly, my friend famously tells the “snowboard story.” Her husband wanted to go snowboarding with his friends, but since they were a young family without a lot of savings, she asked him not to go, saying they couldn’t afford it. The next day, angry and upset that she was “controlling” him, he deposited his $1,100 paycheck and went out and bought an $800 snowboard. It was the first of many money incidents that eventually ruined their marriage.

Many of these spending habits are clearly evident during the dating phase, and should set off alarms. After all, financial disagreements early in a relationship can be a leading predictor of divorce. But people, blinded by love and a desire to get married, overlook them.

When you’re dating someone, you have to pay attention to their spending habits. Do they constantly buy new things, even though they’re in an entry-level job? Do they seem to worship name brands and notice what everyone else is wearing, driving, and doing? Do they know anything about investing? Do they ever talk about the future in a way that is rooted in thoughtful, careful planning?

Be smart. Watch out for the warning signs, because your spouse can make or break you. Selecting a spouse who is smart with his or her finances can help establish a solid foundation. Together, the two of you can make investments, save for the future, plan trips, and encourage each other to make intelligent decisions.

Look for a partner who is either willing to learn more about money or willing to teach. A great and supportive spouse will make sure both of you are on board when it comes to your finances. Too many people, women especially, take a backseat when it comes to finances. If you want to be successful in life, you have to be in the lion’s den right there with your spouse, aware of all of your spending, investing, and saving. Be a part of the discussion. Learn and be comfortable enough to let your spouse guide you to financial success.

It Comes Down to Support

In the last two months, I’ve made two very expensive investments with my business. I added another website to my portfiolio, and I also paid for extremely expensive one-on-one business coaching. These investments totaled several thousand dollars in a short amount of time, so I obviously talked to my husband about them. He was immediately and enthusiastically on board with both decisions, probably even more than I was.

I had to keep asking him, “Are you sure? This is a lot of money.” He responded and said, “Catherine, anything you have ever done, you’ve been successful. I would invest in you time and time again because you work so hard.”

In that moment, I realized that I made the best choice in my spouse, financially speaking. I didn’t plan it this way. I chose someone because he was kind and sweet. In my book, nice guys always finished first.

However, over the course of our 10-year relationship, my husband has proven time and time again that he’s willing to meet me more than halfway. Despite being in medical school and under a lot of pressure to do well, he jumps right in when he gets home, helps with the chores, and is a great dad. He participates in our budget. He actively follows investment news.

Talking about our future investments, ideas for passive income, and fun business ideas are some of our favorite things to talk about. He doesn’t waste money on large, flat-screen TVs. In fact, he’s joined my crazy scheme to have no TV at all and has been streaming football games for more than four years. He’s generous, always tips 20%, and will be totally fine driving a 12-year-old car, even as a physician when all his friends are buying new ones.

If I’d selected a different spouse, my life would look very different. If my spouse had a spending problem, I wouldn’t be able to save so much money on an average income. If my spouse believed he “deserved” name brands, I might not have enough extra money to buy our children the safest carseats on the market. If my spouse thought that I, as the woman, should be in charge of all the household duties, I wouldn’t have the time to develop my business, make investments in my future, and write clever posts like this one.

My spouse, whether I realized it or not at the time, has been the best money decision of my life. Together, we’re far more successful than apart. Together, we’ve grow from two broke college students to two successful professionals, and we’re just getting started.

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