One of the less romantic aspects of marriage is the management of your finances. Budgeting, saving, earning, or paying bills, can often be a point of contention for many couples.
While it might be less fun than say, spending and shopping, investing is an important aspect for both financial health and wealth. For those taking this crucial financial step for the first time, it can be a confusing and fraught time.
To help, we spoke with financial experts for their best advice on how to tackle investing as a couple…and how to not fight about it, too.
Plan for the Future
Avi Lele, the Co-Founder and CEO of Stockpile, suggests that couples take what he calls "the long view," saying, "Despite booms and busts, remember that over the last 100-plus years, the stock market has historically performed better than bonds and real estate, and certainly better than cash sitting in a bank account." While it can seem like an eternity, Lele suggests keeping a 10 year time horizon in mind, which keeps the inevitable ups and down of the market in a proper perspective.
In order to keep expectations clear and to measure the efficacy of your efforts, it's important at the outset to set goals. Keri Danielski, consumer finance expert and spokeswoman for Intuit's money management tools Mint and Turbo explains that goals are different for everyone—investing is a personal thing and every situation is unique. "[Goals] can be as much of a lifestyle decision as a financial decision, so it's important to be realistic with your goals while keeping in mind that investing can be a long-term game," she says.
Know Where You Stand
Some couples may opt to tackle existing debts prior to starting an investment account. Having a clear investment goal and a full understanding your current financial situation is imperative, says Danielski. Knowing the answer to some key questions about your current financial status and health can help you make an informed decision: Are you still paying off grad school or have credit card debts? Do you have a timeline to pay off your debts? Do you know your interest rates?
The Best Time to Invest
"Invest as early and as consistently as you can," says Lele. "Nobody really knows what will happen in the future—it's very hard to be successful by timing the markets." He suggests regularly setting aside 10 percent of your paycheck for investment (if you can), and if you do, "you'll be way ahead of most people and that cushion will add up over time."
"The sooner you start, the better," Danielski says, echoing the sentiment. She suggests that if you're new to investing, turn to your smartphone for help as robo-advisory apps can offer an easy onboarding process for aspiring investors and can help in automating the process.
If you're in the position of having a nest egg you've been wondering what to do with, Danelski says professional guidance might be necessary. "You may want to enlist the help of a professional, such as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) for everyday money advice, or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) for specialized investing advice," she says.
As with most things in coupledom, compromise can be a big component of both investment success and keeping the peace. Gaining a better understanding of how you both feel about money, and how you approach saving and budgeting can help.
"Knowing how each other approaches money will help you avoid any surprises down the road when certain financial decisions may come up," Danielski says,
Janet Alvarez, personal finance expert at Wise Bread says a common source of couple infighting over finances is often around the harmonizing of goals. "This can happen for a number of reasons, ranging from differing priorities to vastly different levels of financial knowledge and understanding," Alvarez says. "If one (or both) of you feels uncomfortable making financial decisions, it can make sense to either opt for very simple, straightforward investments, or schedule a consultation with a financial adviser who can help answer questions and select appropriate investments."
Earning power and salary differentials can also be a point of contention. "Often, one partner earns more, and therefore can contribute more to a couple's investments," Alvarez explains. "The key to avoiding fights is coming to a consensus on what this means for each of you."
She adds that while some couples each contribute 50/50 to, say, a car or mortgage down-payment, others may have an uneven split. Even still, these couples still fully share the investment. So before investing it's important to ask, "What can each of you contribute—and enjoy—comfortably?"
Keep It Fun
Ever hear of a money date? Us either, until Danielski offered them as a way to avoid rising tensions and to keep investing fun.
"Most couples usually have the money talks at the worst possible time," she says. "One partner comes home after a long day at work only to be confronted about why they aren't saving for retirement, or why they spent so much on a recent purchase."
So, instead of bombarding each other with your money worries, Danielski advocates scheduling regular money dates where you can both commit to coming together to discuss money and your financial goals. These can be during after dinner walks, while cozying up at your favorite coffee shop, or over ice cream. (Just avoid the alcohol—this rarely helps!)