Marriage finances suze orman

How I Share Money Power With My Spouse

I’ve dedicated my career to telling people what to do with their money. I am, ahem, known for my very strong opinions on what to do, and not do. You might think that would lead me to wear the financial pants in my relationship with my wife, KT.

If so, you are so wrong.

KT and I have been together for nearly 19 years, and married for nine. From very early on, a signature of our relationship is that we share all money decisions 50-50. Why?

Love is one thing. But respect is everything.

When we met in our early 50s, we both were long financially secure. KT had recently moved on after 20 years as president of Asia’s largest brand-building agency. Still, I had more money, and I was continuing to make more money. I think in many traditional couples from decades past (and present), that dynamic would have meant I could—and should—make all the money decisions.


My advice for couples has always been that who makes more money is irrelevant. If you want a healthy relationship, sharing decisions and control of money is a must. And that’s what KT and I have done.

Early on, we made the decision that we didn’t need to set up a joint bank account to pay the bills. We both had our own homes at that point and we found it worked for us to continue to cover those expenses separately. Over time, as we sold our old properties and bought new ones together, we came up with a system where we mutually agree who handles the payment for which bills.

Yes, that’s different from the advice I give young couples merging their finances to work from a joint checking account. I recommend that step when you both need the other’s income to make the finances work.

We were past that point. But we’ve completely merged how we spend money, how we share money with our family and friends, and you better believe we’ve both created living revocable trusts that’ll ensure whomever lives longest has the easiest and clearest path to handle the other’s assets and possessions.

I’ve also been adamant that KT be in charge of her money. It would’ve been disrespectful for me to have stepped in and told her what I thought she should do. When you insist on making decisions or controlling how things play out, you render your partner powerless. I never wanted that for my love, and I hope you feel the same about yours.

Sure, I offer opinions and guidance, but KT is the decision maker for her money. If she had no money of her own, I would have insisted she become an expert in my money, because it would be our money.

We’re also in business together. KT is my brand manager/business manager/creative force of nature. She plays a big role in my work. And I insist that she be recognized and paid directly for her work. In any business deal, the contract makes it clear that I’m paid for my work and KT is paid directly for hers by the business we’re partnering with. That’s respecting KT for the businesswoman she is. And on a practical level, if anything were to happen to me, or our relationship, it wouldn’t impact her getting paid.

Where we have completely merged our finances is based on decisions in how we spend money.

When we want to give a financial gift to a relative, friend or causes we support, we make those decisions together. Before we send money to any friend or relative, we talk through whether we’ll be helping or hurting that person. Giving money to someone who doesn’t respect money will not help them. Sure, it might cover a bill this month—but then what? They just stay in their damaging loop of poor decisions. In those instances, we do our best to help that person stand in their truth and create a healthier relationship with money—and then, we’re eager to help.

Our shared vision of financial decisions is one of the many ways we remind each other how attached we are. Can we both afford to buy whatever we want? Absolutely. But there’s no joy or fun in that. What gives us both so much pleasure is that when it comes to bigger-ticket items, we only buy something that we both love, and that we’re both on board for.

KT and I live on an island in the Bahamas most of the year, where a great day is any day we can be out on a boat fishing. We discovered fishing years ago as a couple, and it’s become the most wonderful shared hobby. Actually, we’re sort of obsessed.

Early in our fishing days, I announced we should buy a boat. KT insisted we keep renting boats and see if this new hobby was going to stick. For five years we rented, until KT gave us the green light.

Over the years, as we’ve progressed from newbies to master fishers, I’ve often said it was time to buy a new boat that fit our expanding skills. Again, KT has always put the brakes on me, insisting we give it some time to see if we really need that next-level boat.

Am I pissed when she won’t let me buy the new boat right when I want to, even though I could buy the boat with “my” money? Absolutely not. Again, it’s not about the money. It’s about the shared vision of how to use money. And for the record, we have indeed traded in multiple boats, and every time it’s been something we were both excited about.

I can’t overstate how important our spending pact is. A few years ago, I inadvertently broke the pact. KT quickly—and correctly—pointed out my misstep, and I realized that was a line I didn’t want to cross.

We had renovated a home in San Francisco (that we’ve since sold), and had been looking for months for just the right statue for an alcove. We knew exactly what we wanted, but hadn’t yet found it. One day we were driving around town, when we saw something we both immediately thought could be it.
I jumped out of the car to investigate, while KT set out to find parking (no easy feat in San Francisco). By the time KT made it to the gallery, I had already bought the statue. Without KT’s input.

She wasn’t happy. I had broken our rule of making all big-ticket/home purchases together. Sure, my heart was in the right place. But KT told me it wasn’t about the money, and as much as she liked the statue, if it was in our home, it would be a constant reminder of how I had broken our rule. She was so right. We left the gallery without the statue.

That moment wasn’t about me giving up my money power. It was a wonderful reminder of the mutual empowerment we’ve built into our relationship. I wish you the same in yours.

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Because money symbolizes different things for different people (power, love, security, control, for example), it can cause huge rifts between even the most loving duo — and sometimes, those chasms can be hard to talk about. Money issues play a significant role in 90 percent of divorces, statistics show.

If finances are a source of contention in your relationship, there are some simple ways to regain control and alleviate your anxieties about your future, says money guru Suze Orman.

“To be in control of your money, you have to be in control of your life, so to speak,” says Orman. “And by that I mean you have so much security in who you are, and who you are living with, that you don’t have to merge every aspect of your life in totality.”

A common mistake couples make with money is to put everything into one single account, says Orman. “That means you both write checks out of that account, you both use debit cards out of that account, and that makes it very, very difficult to control,” she stresses.

There’s a simple solution to get a clear look at what your household costs are, and who’s spending what, according to Orman. She tells clients who seek her financial advice to follow this plan: Tally up your combined net monthly take-home pay. Then add up all your shared monthly household expenses. The key word here is shared — like mortgage or rent payments, food costs, car payments, and utilities. Leave out your morning latte and gym membership, unless they come on a family plan.

Whatever percentage of your monthly take-home pay is needed to cover your shared monthly expenses is the percentage of money each person should give from his or her individual monthly salary for household bills.

Orman uses this example to explain the formula: One person makes $3,000 a month and one makes $7,000. The monthly take-home is $10,000.

“Now, let’s say for this example that all the shared expenses — mortgage, utilities, food, car payments, and so on — add up to $3,000. That’s 30 percent of your take-home pay of $10,000, so each person contributes 30 percent of their individual monthly pay to the household account. The rest they keep for themselves.”

And it’s up to you to take control of your remaining cash. Put it in your own checking or savings account, says Orman, not with your partner’s money.

Your next challenge is to figure out — honestly — what you’re spending every month. Orman suggests keeping a daily diary of where your money goes — and no expenditure is too small.

“Keep track of everything you purchase in one day, and do that for a month, or at least two weeks,” she says.

The goal is not to put you on a strict budget, but to show you how little items add up over time. Most people are genuinely unaware of how much they spend every day — or how impulse buying can add up.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you get control of your cash — and how your pennies can add up, Orman says.


8 Financial Must-Dos That Most Newlyweds Skip

Few things in life are better — or feel more magical — than finding your match, falling in love, and saying “I do” in front of your closest friends and family.

No doubt as newlyweds you’ve received a lot of (likely unsolicited) advice on marriage. We’re not here to coach you on how to determine who’s doing dishes and who’s taking out the trash tonight, though we hear rock-paper-scissors is a good tie-breaking tactic.

What we do know is that communication is integral to maintaining a healthy and thriving relationship. That includes figuring out how to handle your shared finances. We’ve put together a list of financial tips for newlyweds that’ll make it easy to encourage a healthy financial life (especially when compared to planning your wedding).

1. Have an Open and Honest Conversation

Honesty matters in money matters. Having an honest and open conversation with your S.O. lays the groundwork for the financial well-being of your marriage.

You also need to be open about where your money’s flowing and what it’s being used on. A 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association reports “31 percent of spouses and partners say that money is a major source of conflict or tension in their relationship.”

Start by sitting down together to discuss your financial history and experience, plans for the future, and who will be the one responsible for paying the bills.

And don’t forget the whole banking sitch, too. Each of you might have had bank accounts for as long as you can remember, but now that you’ve combined lives, it might make sense to combine bank accounts, as experts like Dave Ramsey suggest.

Of course, the decision to open a joint bank account is something you and your gushing newlywed will need to talk about. After all, you two know each other best, so it might be more comfortable for you to maintain separate bank accounts. Either way, it’s a choice that needs to be addressed.

2. Talk About Financial Goals

For many, getting married is a milestone of “adulting.” It’s a surefire sign that you’ve accepted all the responsibilities of being a grown-up. You know, like bills and stuff — the responsibilities you weren’t aware of when you were six and dreamt of being an astronaut and a firefighter.

But tying the knot is just one facet of your adult life. What about buying a home, having kids, and climbing the ladder of a fulfilling career?

Newlyweds need to discuss their separate and shared financial goals and dreams. You might be surprised by how much your goals differ, so try to find some common ground and compromise.

This discussion also leads to a great opportunity to learn a little more about each other! You might discover that your husband is content living in a modest home with a white picket fence (as opposed to an estate in the Hamptons). Your wife might want to pursue further education in an attempt to establish a global corporate empire.

And you both might want to spend a healthy amount of time traveling the world (who doesn’t?).

The point of discussing your financial goals, of course, is to identify how you’ll work toward achieving them.

Consider the effect of buying a home, for example. You’ll need to figure out how to save up for a down payment before you even start the lengthy home buying process.

3. Establish a Budget

I know, I know – here’s that word “budget” you’ve heard so much throughout your adult life. Sigh. A budget isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s what will support your ability to do the exciting things you’d like to. A budget helps prevent you from sinking into debt while keeping you on track to meet your shared financial goals.

In many cases, marriage wipes away many of the bills you and your newlywed were once individually responsible for paying. Even if you’ve mostly lived with one another for a while, you might have still been paying for a (barely visited) apartment of your own — just in case.

But just because you share expenses doesn’t mean you’re paying less overall. The total cost of your living arrangements, utilities, and other expenses might equal more than you’ve ever paid while single.

Sit down together and construct a budget. Address areas that have to be included — like your mortgage and credit card bills — but don’t forget to leave yourselves with some spending money. Then stick to following your budget to avoid overspending or burdening yourselves with excessive debt.

4. Conquer Your Debt Together

Marriage means working together as a team to achieve shared goals, like conquering debt.

Newlyweds don’t take on their spouse’s debt after marriage (unless they’re a cosigner for a loan, for example). However, your spouse’s debt does play a role in the financial well-being of your marriage. Lenders don’t really care if you’ve put a ring on it — they want their monthly payments.

Working as a team to eliminate debt brought into a marriage can eventually free up cash for other purposes, like a well-earned vacation or down payment for a home.

Keep the “his” or “hers” on bathrobe embroidery — don’t apply it to debt. Treat any debt as “our” debt and pay it down together. Your marriage will be stronger for it.

5. Save, Save, Save

Married couples generally spend less money on housing, healthcare, bills, and groceries than their single counterparts. What should newlyweds do with all the money they’re saving by combining expenses?

Bank it!

Your first and foremost goal should be setting up an emergency fund. An emergency fund will tide you over in case one of you unexpectedly lose a job, your car breaks down, or an *ahem* emergency springs up. Having sufficient savings available means you’ll avoid the added stress and tension caused by an unexpected emergency.

It’s also worth tucking some cash away for retirement. Reassess your retirement planning, 401(k), and investments. Your goals for your golden years might have changed now that you’ve tied the knot. Make sure your retirement savings and investments are working to both of your benefits.

6. Reconcile Any Wage Differences

Earning less than your partner can lead to feeling as if you’re worth less, but that’s not the case. Not all jobs are created equal, even if you work just as hard. Confront pay disparity head-on, before it has the chance to cause illogical resentment and tension.

There’s no one tried-and-true solution for approaching income inequality in a marriage, though. You’re going to need to figure out what works best for you and your boo. Doing equal amounts of work or using a rewards system can help negate the downsides of pay disparity in your marriage.

Experts like Suze Orman suggest splitting expenses by percentage so that you’re each contributing fairly and still able to pocket a healthy bit of spending cash. This should be a chunk of change that either of you can spend on anything you want without needing to answer for it or feeling judged in how it’s spent.

7. Assess Your Life Insurance Needs

Like many Americans, you probably haven’t looked at your life insurance policy in awhile (or don’t have coverage at all).

When was the last time you assessed your needs for life insurance? Now that you’re married, consider protecting your spouse’s financial future. Nowadays, you can get an affordable term life policy online without a medical exam (and we know just the place to apply… 😉).

Seriously though, term life insurance is effective for protecting the financial well-being of your marriage at a time when you’re most vulnerable — before you’ve had the opportunity to really increase your income or savings and you still owe significant debt.

If you have existing coverage already (go you!), ask yourself if it provides enough of a death benefit to protect your growing family in your absence. Will it pay off a mortgage if you’re no longer around? What about your auto loans or credit card debt?

Tying the knot is also the perfect time to review who’s going to get the policy’s proceeds if you pass on. Check your existing policy to see who you’ve listed as your beneficiaries. (Think about it: Do you want your life insurance proceeds to go to your ex if that’s no longer your intention? Ew.)

Life insurance for young married couples protects everything you’ve worked for while you’re alive and healthy. It’s lasting protection that helps demonstrate your undying love and desire to provide for your family.

8. Understand How Marriage Affects Your Taxes

Since we’ve already talked about death, let’s not forget taxes! (The two always go hand-in-hand, don’t they?)

First, you’re going to want to update your W-2 tax withholding. Since your taxes may increase due to the “marriage penalty,” it might be prudent to have more taxes taken from your paycheck by claiming “0.” This will save you from a large bill at tax time.

Your joint income might actually push you into a new tax bracket and your filing status is likely to change, too. In most cases, it’s likely you and your spouse will choose the “married filing jointly” filing status, in which you fill out one tax return (and are both accountable for all the information you provided). However, it may sometimes be advantageous to choose “married filing separately,” particularly if one of you has high medical expenses or too little federal income tax withheld.

All of these changes can be overwhelming and a little bit confusing, so it’s generally a good idea to meet with a CPA or tax professional to put everything in proper order.

Say “I Do” to Creating a Healthy Financial Life as Newlyweds

Marriage requires hard work, dedication, and communication to maintain – as does the financial well-being of a young married couple. These financial tips for newlyweds will help you not only learn more about one another (like your S.O.’s near-obsession with growing a collection of cat artwork), but create a framework that supports and protects your financial goals, dreams, and integrity.

caption Find out your partner’s credit history before it’s too late. source Gleb Leonov/Sterlka Institute/Flickr

  • Financial problems are one of the main reasons couples seek marriage counseling, and it’s a leading cause of divorce.
  • In a recent podcast, Suze Orman said there’s one major financial red flag to look out for before marrying someone – a bad credit credit score.
  • Your partner’s bad credit can affect several areas of your life, and you may be expected to help bear their financial mess in the event of a divorce.

With money a common cause of divorce and one of the main reasons couples seek marriage counseling, finances should be high priority on the list of conversations to have with your partner before getting married.

But there’s one financial red flag women should watch out for in particular, according to bestselling personal finance author Suze Orman: Your partner’s credit history.

“Before you ever say I do, you better know your spouse…their FICO score, their credit reports, you better be looking at their financial habits,” Orman said on a recent “So Money” podcast with journalist Farnoosh Torabi and editor-in-chief of Money magazine Adam Auriemma.

While there are plenty of financial red flags that are easy to miss early on in the lust stage of a relationship – like tipping big, always buying shoes, or going to the racetrack often – the biggest indication of their financial situation comes when sitting down and showing each other your credit reports, Orman said.

“If somebody has a bad FICO score, credit score, and a lot of late payments, I would get rid of that person so fast … unless there was a good reason why,” Orman said. “They got sick, they were in an accident, they didn’t have any insurance … second divorce, they were taken, but they better be willing to tell you about it, and you shouldn’t even have to ask them about it.

“They should be telling you, ‘Sweetheart, I just want to tell you right now I’m a total financial mess. Here’s the reason why,’” she said. “If they don’t have a good reason why, because their mess very shortly is going to become your mess. I guarantee you, financial abuse will start to happen and there will go the relationship.”

Orman isn’t alone in her train of thought – a Bankrate survey found that nearly four in 10 adults said knowing someone’s credit score affects their willingness to date a person, Business Insider previously reported.

Having bad credit can affect several areas of your life, such as raising the price of your bills and preventing you from getting a mortgage on the home you want.

Things can get even messier in the event of a divorce if there’s debt looming. Leanna Johannes, senior wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management, previously told Business Insider that if one partner has a high balance on their credit cards, you could find yourself responsible for debts you didn’t know existed. You may even be expected to help shoulder the debt load if your partner has credit card or other installment types of debt.

But Pam Friedman, certified financial planner and author of “I Now Pronounce You Financially Fit: How to Protect Your Money in Marriage and Divorce,” told Bankrate couples shouldn’t put too much emphasis on a credit score. “Knowing someone’s score is important, but it’s much more important to know someone’s attitudes toward money,” she said.

Pros and cons of sharing your finances as a married couple

Abby Hayes Published 4:00 PM EDT Jul 5, 2017 Combining finances makes sense for many reasons, but not everyone wants to. We’ve collected the pros and cons of combining your finances. Getty Images/iStockphoto

For years, the standard financial advice for couples was to combine their finances. All income, debts and expenditures belong to both parties, so why not put them together?

Combining finances makes sense for many reasons, but not everyone wants to take this direction. If you’re preparing to tie the knot, you might wonder which option is best for you. We’ve collected the pros and cons of combining your finances and keeping them separate so you can decide which method will work for you.


The pros of combining your finances

Combining your finances can be tricky, especially if both parties have their own debts, accounts and assets coming into the marriage. But it might be worth it for the following reasons:

Women may have greater security

Other research shows that women have greater security when they combine finances with their spouses. That might seem counterintuitive, but remember, women are typically more prone to income interruptions, as they may take time off to start families.

It keeps things simple

Splitting finances may work for some couples, but it can also lead to complicated conversations. Who pays which bills? Should you split evenly when there’s income disparity? Who should pick up the check on date night? If all the money is going into and coming out of the same pot, it may help simplify things.

It allows for more flexibility

When you can rely on your spouse to foot the bill while you take parental leave, go back to school or start a new business, you may be more likely to take certain career risks. And in the long run, those risks can be good for the couple if they pan out. If, on the other hand, you have to keep paying your share of the bills, you might be less likely to take the leap.

It creates shared goals

When all the money comes from the same place, the couple needs to communicate. That can be a good thing, as couples can thrive on having common financial goals to work toward.

The cons of combining your finances

Combining finances may not be the solution for everyone. This strategy also has some potential downsides:

Making debt a bigger issue

If one partner comes into the marriage with big financial problems — including hefty debt or terrible credit — that can turn the relationship sour. In these instances, it can sometimes be better to separate accounts while the indebted spouse works on their finances. (You can keep tabs on your finances by viewing two of your credit scores for free on

You can feel constrained

As an adult, it’s natural to want to spend your money however you see fit. After all, you earned it. When all the money is combined, you may not get to spend on those personal things you have in mind, especially if your spouse has a say in your spending.

It can cause arguments

What if each spouse has a different idea of what financial responsibility looks like? Maybe one spouse prefers to pay down the mortgage, while the other thinks it’s wise to invest. Or maybe one spouse is frugal, while the other’s a spendthrift. In this case, combining finances requires take serious communication and the ability to compromise.

The pros of keeping things separate

There are plenty of ways to keep your finances separate. Some partners split expenses down the middle while others split them according to who earns more money. Some partners maintain a joint account for overarching expenses like housing but hold separate accounts for everything else. Regardless of how you do it, keeping separate finances can be good for a few reasons:

Keeping spouses from one another’s messes

If you’re going into marriage with a lot of student loan debt or an otherwise complex financial situation, you may want to keep your money — and money problems — to yourself. This can make your spouse more comfortable and shield them from disaster in an emergency.

Giving both spouses more autonomy

Perhaps the main reason couples decide not to combine finances is because they like having autonomy. Having control over your own money may cut down on fights and allow each spouse to meet their own financial goals.

The cons of keeping things separate

Here are a few reasons to avoid this option:

It can devalue a spouse

Splitting household expenses by income may seem like a good idea, but it can make each spouse feel their value in the marriage is tied to their salary. However, splitting things 50-50 can make things stressful for the spouse who earns less.

It may diminish risk-taking ability

As we noted above, one of the advantages of a joint financial approach is that it allows for risk taking. When you have your spouse’s income to fall back on, you can go start a business or have a baby. The opposite may be true of couples who split their finances, unless the couple works out a system to allow for such ventures.

For many couples, the best approach to will be somewhere in between. My husband and I, for instance, combine most of our finances. But we each maintain a separate checking account for “fun money.” We can transfer a predetermined amount of money out of the joint checking account each month and spend that money however we wish. This helps us have a bit more autonomy, but ensures we’re still on the same page about our finances.

Whichever approach you choose, keep evaluating what works and what doesn’t. And don’t be afraid to discuss your feelings and change your approach if things aren’t working.

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This article originally appeared on

Abby Hayes is a freelance blogger and journalist who writes for personal finance blog The Dough Roller and contributes to Dough Roller’s weekly newsletter.

Published 4:00 PM EDT Jul 5, 2017

“You need as much money in the bank that makes you feel secure,” Orman reiterates. “Don’t go fooling yourself, ‘It’s okay, I can charge on a credit card, I can do this.’ You should have at least eight months. Not six months, not three months, I’d like to see you have eight months to one year.”

If you’re not there yet, you’re not alone: Only 39 percent of Americans have enough in the bank to be able to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a recent Bankrate survey.

To get your emergency fund started, consider reworking your budget and trying to find areas where you can dedicate more to saving and investing. You want to start putting money away as early as possible to take advantage of compound interest, in which any interest earned accrues interest on itself. That means a little money invested now can end up being a lot of money invested later.

If you need to make room in your budget, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started:

  • 5 ways to save more money in 2018
  • 6 money-saving tips that will make you feel smart
  • 5 tips to save more money, from ordinary people who have paid off thousands

This is an updated version of a previously published article.

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