Many failed marriages often cite financial troubles as a major factor in the breakup. This isn’t surprising because the way we use our time and money often reflects our values. Without a strong set of shared values, marriages can drift apart. But, dealing with finances together can bring a couple closer. With that said, here are some principles that you can use to help build wealth and strengthen your marriage.

Start as newlyweds. There’s no better time to establish the rules of a relationship than at the beginning. Furthermore, every seven years you delay starting a savings plan cuts in half your ultimate net worth in retirement. Chances are you know someone who’s getting
married this year (of even this month) so send them a copy of this blog post.  It may be more valuable than the check you write.

Budget as a team. Shared activities help you build and integrate your values and keep your finances in sync with the rest of your life. Couples that share philanthropic causes or other activities often do better financially because their common vision allow them to work together instead of pulling in different directions.

The more opportunities to forge shared values, the better the marriage team. Even the simple process of creating and
adjusting a family budget, provides a forum for discussion of what is really important to the family.

Realize that a budget gives you freedom. Partners without a budget can, and often do, fight about every dollar spent. Every purchase is an opportunity for values and priorities to clash. Yet couples who have worked together on a budget are already in agreement on the big picture. Once the difficult decisions are made about what will help further the family’s values, the specific purchases in each category are much less relevant.

Additionally, couples with a budget do not get concerned about spending until a category goes over the budgeted amount. Having decided how much money the family can afford to spend on clothes for him or her, the scrutiny over if he prefers lots of inexpensive clothes and she prefers a few nice pieces tends to diminish.  Thus, a budget allows discretion and freedom to prevail within cooperation and teamwork.

Pay yourself first. The best way to achieve your financial goals is by moderating your spending and staying on track with your savings needs. Only after you have saved several times your annual salary does the rate of appreciation become more important than the rate of savings.

To pay yourself first, set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to an investment account where your contribution is automatically invested in a diversified portfolio. Even a small amount makes a big difference. Just five hundred dollars a month (just $6,000 a year) at 11.5% each year will compound to a million dollars by the middle of the 26th year. Money makes money. And the money that money makes, makes even more money.

Limit spending unless you both agree. A single mistake can undo months of frugality and sacrifice. Therefore, big purchases require both members of the team to agree. Honoring each other in this way helps avoid resentment and disgust.

When a couple is just starting out, this dollar limit may be very small, perhaps only fifty dollars. As the couple matures, they will grow to anticipate each other’s wisdom and values; plus, they will likely be able to increase their discretionary spending limits.

Differentiate your needs from wants. In the US, nearly all of our purchases are wants, not needs. Humans really need little more than food, shelter and clothing to survive. It is easy to fall into the
misconception that we deserve nice things because we work hard. But “true” wealth is what you save, not what you spend. The textbook definition of capital is deferred consumption, and wealthy people learn to value financial security over immediate gratification.

Our company has worked with families with very modest incomes who, through saving and investing, have grown to be millionaires. On the other hand, we have worked with couples who spent every dollar of dual six-figure incomes. The difference in achieving financial success is separating needs from wants.

Everyone should own a piece of the budget. Both members of a marriage should have a slice of the budget which is completely at their discretion. So long as their spending stays within this thin slice of the budget pie, they can be completely frivolous. Perhaps it is only 0.5% of your total budget, but it will provide a place to put purchases that otherwise might cause marital strife.

If one partner collects Strawberry Shortcake dolls and the other signed collectible baseball cards, they can both enjoy their frivolous
expenditures without jeopardizing budget items that are more
important to the family.

Couples that learn to live proportionately maintain their balance whether they are rich or poor. No matter the circumstances, they include some fun, some gifting, and some investing as a reflection of their shared family values.