Couples count their costs – Three local lovebirds talk balancing budgets

15 March 2016

You know how the wedding vows go? “For richer, for poorer…” We spoke to a psychologist and three South African couples to shed some light on how they handle their finances – and how they should. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies – but money shouldn’t be a barrier to the wind beneath your wings.

There are countless articles online blaming money as the main cause of divorce. We spoke to Dr Linda Blokland, a psychologist and lecturer in psychology from Pretoria, to give some perspective on the matter.

What should couples be on the lookout for when it comes to money?

“Couples should ascertain from each other that they hold similar or compatible values when it comes to finance. Many of the issues around finances can be primarily practical, such as the calculation of workable budgets. Other issues lie more in the values field, which is far more complex. While couples might believe they hold similar values around major issues such as lifestyle, religion (or not), and the raising of children (or not) – values around finances may hold surprises for both. Finances should not be a topic of conversation that’s avoided, but rather explored. Compromises very often have to be reached. Each member of the couple may have to make sacrifices and concessions to accommodate the other.”

How does money lead to break ups/divorce?

Money often provides a fundamental sense of security and well-being in modern day capitalistic western society. People refer to their families of origin as the benchmarks for their adult life lifestyles. Some set out to live “differently” from the families of origin, while others harbor expectations of a similar standard, especially if they come from well-off backgrounds. However, people often take their financial expectations for granted, and don’t always see the need to discuss these. Money is also a sensitive topic of conversation, which is often avoided. Clashes in this area may lead to arguments and resentments in other areas.

Anna-Belle and Craig Durrant (Johannesburg)

Blogger and Instagrammer Anna-Belle and Desmond and The Tutus’ drummer Craig Durrant are small business owners based in Johannesburg. They firmly believe in balance and spoiling themselves. “Craig and I generally split responsibilities according to our general household responsibilities,” says Anna-Belle. “I generally cook, so I cover the groceries while he covers the insurance, electricity and things like our Internet bill. We split rent right down the middle. However, sometimes payments from clients come in late, so some months one of us will cover the full amount – depending on how business is going.”

Merging finances has its pros and cons. It builds trust and it makes budgeting easier. But here’s the catch: Credit ratings. Check your credit ratings before you open a joint account with your partner. Applying for credit as a couple (for example, a home loan) will affect your credit score. Transparency is not negotiable.

Pierre and Rialette du Plessis (Pretoria)

The married couple helps teams play nice with their company, BE BRAVEPierre does talks and Rialette works with the teams. Running a business and a family (with four pups and two kids) brings its own set of challenges, but Pierre says: “The trick is to always communicate expectations and faults.” Their biggest purchase as a couple was their house, and their biggest money mistake was spending money they thought would definitely be coming in – and it didn’t.

As a couple, being realistic is your first step to success. Expenses are sometimes a little overwhelming, but never spend more than you have. And like Pierre and Rialette learnt, never spend what you don’t have. By cutting out unnecessary spending, you cut out resentment.

Keenan Mulvaney and Natalie Roos (Cape Town)

Former KTV presenter and well-known blogger Natalie Roos and her partner, copywriter Keenan Mulvaney invested in an apartment together, but generally keep their finances apart. Teamwork made their 20-something dream work – they use separate bank accounts and split extra costs down the middle. When asked about the biggest money mistake they’ve made, Keenan shares his credit woes: “Don’t do credit if you don’t have a plan to get out of debt. The knock-on financial effect is just really not worth the little rush of buying things you don’t need in your life.”

Dr Blokland recommends talking about money early on. Co-created plans should not remain rigid, but be flexible with the growth of the couple as they move through their careers and family expansion.

Shared goals will help you stay on the right path when it comes to spending and retirement, and will also require hard and honest conversations around spending habits. Decide which comes first. If you want to have kids, a savings account to cover your little one’s expenses could be top priority. Retirement, a home, and travel are next in line, depending on your joint dreams.

It’s important to have money conversations with your loved one (and us).

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.