The other day I got a question from a reader and she was wondering, “How do you approach managing money when one person prioritizes the security of having an ever-growing emergency fund in the bank and the other person would rather use the ‘extra’ to invest?”
I don’t know how it is y’all but for Aaron and I, when we have a difference of opinion on a topic, a seemingly small “problem” can quickly grow out of control. When you start talking about money. Then, whoa, Nelly. Shit’s about to get real.
Experts have long recommended that couples discuss their money values and beliefs before they even walk down the aisle because they say that by having an upfront discussion about how you plan on managing your money can help couples keep their financial priorities straight from the very start. Speaking of… here are 30 Money Questions to Ask Before You Get Married.
Now, not seeing things exactly the same isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. But it could be a red flag and it could mean that you need to hash out some details before you decide to continue on together. Nobody wants to think of money or money issues being such a big deal that it’d cause a relationship to go under. I totally get that. And, unless you’re super practical and if you haven’t been married before then it’s really easy to have the mindset of, “we’ll figure it out later”.
As couples grow and financial situations change, there should be ongoing discussions about how money is managed. As extra cash becomes available, one spouse may want to deposit it all in a safe bank account and let it sit tight for emergencies. The other spouse may wish to invest money in order to grow it faster, but with more risks. This difference of opinion should be negotiated with the best interests of the overall financial needs of you as a couple in mind, rather than basing negotiations on which person is “right” or “wrong.” The morale of the story: put any pride aside and do what try to see the situation as objectively as possible. If you can’t come to a decision together then consider enlisting trusted (and financially responsible) friends and family to weigh in on the matter. They may be able to bring insights to the issue that neither of you have even considered.
Let’s go back to the question at hand. “As a married couple, is it better to invest or build up a hefty emergency fund?”
Here’s what I suggest:
1. Weigh the Pros and Cons
Any big decision that comes to a stalemate can be discussed and reviewed using a short pro/con list. As you go through the list have a frank discussion about how to utilize the money most effectively. Be open to points that you may not have previously considered, and remember that it’s not about who is “right” or “wrong”.
2. Get Professional Tips
If you can’t decide on the right financial path to follow, it may be smart to pay for the advice of a professional financial advisor. Allow the advisor the opportunity to look over your finances so that he or she can advise you of the right choice to make based on your goals and financial situation. A professional may also be able to provide some insight into which investments make sense for you.
3. Divide and Conquer
If you’d rather not pay the fee for a professional consultant, you may agree to split money between the two options. Use a percentage of the money for a deposit into a bank account for emergencies and place an equal percentage in investments. Monitor the growth of both over time, as well as the risks. The more comfortable you both feel in making deposits and investments, the more informed you will eventually become, and you’ll make more appropriate decisions as time goes on. Also, you can modify things as you go. No decision has to be permanent.
Even among experts there are disagreements about which financial strategy is best between investing and saving. While having a reliable source of cash for actual emergencies is certainly a wise move financially, being able to grow your money effectively is also a plus. Whichever path you choose to travel as a couple, do your research, seek professional advice when needed, and work together to find the best possible strategies for protecting your money and your future.
How often do you discuss money matters with your spouse/significant other? How have you worked out issues? What would you tell the couple to do?