Changing Household Financial Roles within Marriage?


This is a sponsored post by Chase. The content and opinions expressed below are attributed to the Cash Cow Couple.

Before we were married, my husband and I had extensive conversations about how our finances would be managed within our marriage. This ranged from small details like who would pay the bills, to big picture financial goals we had for our life together. We believe this strong financial foundation has been the biggest reason we’ve been financially successful as a young, Millennial couple.

The decision to openly discuss money is becoming increasingly important. Research has shown that Baby Boomers very rarely discussed financial issues while growing up. But they have improved upon that by having more money discussions with their children, many of whom are in the Millennial generation.

Talking openly about money is beneficial for a number of reasons, which are discussed below.

Money talks boost Millennial confidence

According to findings of the Chase Generational Money Study*, Millennials are now the most financially-savvy generation in history.

  • Millennial households feel more responsible for financial matters than previous generations. 71% of Millennials claim to be the person responsible for financial decisions vs. 53% of Boomers.
  • The majority of Millennials start saving for retirement at a much earlier age. The average Millennial began saving at age 23, while Boomers waited until age 40.
  • 78% of Millennials follow some type of budget, compare to 59% of Boomers.
  • Millennials also appear more optimistic about their financial future than past generations.

Money roles within marriage have changed

What’s also clear is that the financial roles within marriage have changed. Previous generations have had a much more rigid structure when it came to how finances were managed in the home. According to a recent study titled “Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage,” from 1970 to 2007, the percent of men whose wives’ earned more than them increased from 4% to 22%.

Women are becoming the breadwinner in an increasing number of homes. In turn, this has given Millennial women more confidence and a greater role when it comes to managing family finances.

The Chase Generational Study found that 78% of Millennial women believe they are able to make good financial decisions, compared to 71% of Gen X and 67% of Boomer women.

Our Personal Story

When I was growing up, talking about money was considered impolite. I never knew how much money my dad (the primary breadwinner) made, and I was discouraged from asking questions about how money was managed within my family. To this day, my parents remain uncomfortable talking about their finances.

Jacob’s childhood was more tumultuous. Jacob’s parents had numerous financial struggles, but they did not openly discuss their financial situation. Instead, they would fight about the ongoing issues. That ongoing dynamic caused real and lasting pain, along with years of financial stress.

The common thread throughout both our childhoods was a lack of communication, which led to uncertainty, stress, and confusion. Now, as adults within a marriage, we openly discuss everything, including money.

How do these dynamics work in our Millennial marriage?

Jacob is nearly finished with his PhD in Financial Planning. Between the two of us, he clearly has the most knowledge about financial matters. However, this does not excuse or exclude me from being a part of our financial life. I have to proactively stay in the loop about what our financial situation is, how money is being spent, saved, and invested, and what to do in case of an emergency.

It’s important for both partners to be knowledgeable about the family’s financial decisions because the older you get, the more complex your money situation will become, especially if you are building wealth. Make sure you start now, so you can learn as you go. This will make it less overwhelming later in life.

Jacob is the CFO of our family, and I respect his role as the leader of our finances. This is an important aspect of a financially-savvy marriage. It’s just fine to have separate roles, if you discuss those roles and respect each other. We are a team when it comes to finances and everything else in life.

Have joint goals

Make sure you marry someone who is going to be your partner and truly wants the same things as you. As mentioned above, Jacob and I talked about our finances extensively before we were married. We knew that we both wanted to pursue financial freedom.

Financial freedom has become our overarching financial and lifestyle goal.  We want to be free to live our lives according to what we feel is truly important, like spending time together, with friends and family, giving back to the community, and pursuing our passions.

Your money talks should be ongoing

We credit our financial success to the ongoing conversations about our financial situation. No topic is off limits, and we continue to discuss our financial situation. This type of conversational freedom within a marriage takes time and effort.

Open communication is the key to financial success, especially within millennial marriages where financial management roles are more equal than ever before.

How do you participate in your family’s finances?

*Chase commissioned this online survey about personal financial views and habits. The survey was conducted between June 9th and June 17th, 2016. Chase worked with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Research on Consumer Financial Decision Making to develop the 2016 Generational Money Talks study. The study was conducted from a nationally representative sample of 2,021 adults (18 years old and older) living in the continental United States. Full details of the study are available at Chase.com/TheTalk.  

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