Bad Pennies: Financial Arguments Top Predictor of Divorce
According to a recent study at Kansas State University (KSU), arguments about finance are top ranking predictors of divorce.
The actual causes of divorce are a bit more complicated. Recent Census Bureau statistics cite education levels, income, religious beliefs and other elements that may be contributing factors. And every person will have a different opinion on why s/he is divorced, saying infidelity, growing apart, unrealistic expectations, or irreconcilable differences are the causes. Those last three can cover a wide range of problems, including financial arguments.
So back to predictors: Sonya Britt, program director of the Institute of Personal Financial Planning and assistant professor of Family Studies and Human Services at KSU, conducted the study of 4,500 couples. She has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and a doctoral in personal financial planning. Britt states, “It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money – for both men and women.”
Britt found that couples arguing about money early on in the marriage have a good chance of dissatisfaction with their relationship. A couple’s income level, debt obligations and net worth didn’t matter – the financial arguments were the common denominator for predicting divorce.
She’s not alone in her findings. Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project says, “Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month.”
Even for couples who stay together to avoid the costs of divorce (that happened quite often during the recent economic recession, if you’ll remember), constant financial bickering leads to more stress on the relationship. Britt says it takes longer to recover from money arguments – more so than any other kind of argument – because the parties use harsher language and the disagreement lasts longer.
It’s not all bad news, for couples who argue about the finances. Britt recommends young couples see a financial planner, pull credit reports and discuss how each spouse will handle their own and shared economic responsibilities.
Prenuptial agreements are an obvious option for some couples. And postnuptial agreements can actually save a marriage when money worries get to be too much. Read my blog, Postnuptial Agreements Relieve Pressure for more information.
The important factor in surviving financial arguments with your spouse or soon-to-be spouse, is the same factor in addressing other issues:
Recognize the problem, and then take steps to correct it. If both parties have completely different financial management styles, there are going to be arguments, unless each party can either compromise or find a way to adjust.
As a family law attorney, I work with financial planners and family therapists regularly – contact me if you need a referral.