Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Relationship Therapist and Media Personality, Kiaundra Jackson, offers key advice to help millennial couples blend their finances in a way that strengthens their relationship and prevents financial worries from destroying it down the line.
Taking a deep dive into your finances can be anxiety-provoking.
Taking a deep dive into your life partner’s finances can be ten times as stressful.
I learned that first hand when my husband and I became engaged.
Until that point in our relationship, my then-fiance and I never candidly explored our own financial histories together nor did we discuss how we were going to merge our own finances once we were married.
It led to many heated and emotional conversations. Somehow, we managed to get through the experience and have a wedding in New York City that cost at least half of what most weddings in the Big Apple cost.
However, I knew that I didn’t want to let money issues ruin our marriage, as I had seen them do to so many other marriages and relationships.
After I was married, it became easy to understand why financial stress is the leading cause of divorce.
Marriage and Family Therapist, Kiaundra Jackson, calls money one of the top three “relationship killers.”
“Money can tremendously have an effect on people’s relationship because we don’t know how to necessarily handle it appropriately,” Jackson said on a recent interview I conducted on my podcast, Skooled.
Jackson is known as “America’s #1 Relationship Therapist.”
She’s also a media personality who has been featured on the CBS Emmy-Award Winning TV Show, “The Doctors,” The New York Times, BET, and Vice. The Huffington Post has identified her as one of the ’10 Black Female Therapists You Should Know.’
In addition to being an international speaker, author, and trusted Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Jackson is also the visionary behind KW Couples Therapy, and the Co-Founder of KW Essential Services and Black Speakers Rock.
I figured this highly accomplished therapist would surely be able to help my husband and I fortify our marriage regardless of our financial circumstances. My hope is that she can do the same for other young couples, particularly millennial couples, who may also struggle in this area.
“When you’re blending two people, especially from the millennial generation, it causes a little bit of conflict,” said Jackson.
This makes sense when one considers that millennials have experiences with finances that have shaped their perspectives about money in ways that are specific to their generation.
Today’s young adults have disproportionately low marriage rates in comparison to previous generations. A recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that economic security may play an important role in millennials’ likelihood to marry.
Many young adults entered the job force during the Great Recession (2007–2009). This resulted in higher rates of unemployment, underemployment, lower incomes, lower rates of homeownership and increased rates of poverty when compared to previous generations.
Moreover, the study found that among working young adults ages 18 to 34, the median annual wages are $20,327 per year. Moreover, the poverty rates are 15.9 percent for young adult men and 21.8 percent for young adult women. Even more suprising, only 9.8 percent of young adults own a home.
The relationship between economic security and marriage becomes even more understandable when one considers the heavy burden many young adults carry in the form of student loan debt, expenses associated with weddings, the merging of finances following marriage and how financial disagreements can negatively impact marital outcomes.
No wonder so many millennials are not getting married!
However, my husband and I are proof that you don’t have to let money block your chance at love.
It was a bit painful, but we decided to be honest with each other about our financial standing after we became engaged so that we could move forward with our relationship in a healthy manner. It wasn’t easy, but we decided to be honest about our respective financial situations in order to forge a healthy beginning to our marriage.
Jackson suggests being candid with your significant well before you even consider tying the knot. Having your own financial audit can help determine if you are compatible together and will reduce the likelihood of financial worries spoiling your relationship down the line.
“I encourage people to talk about this as early on as possible,” Jackson said. “Even in the dating stage because truth be told …the belief that we have about money, how we handle it or mishandle it, is rooted in our childhood or what we saw or didn’t see growing up,” she said.
Jackson explains that when couples don’t have these conversations, each person assumes they know what is happening with our significant other’s funds. However when we know why a person makes the financial decisions – which is often based on what he or she experienced as a child - it becomes easier to understand your partner’s choices.
Because millennials’ experiences with the economy have had such a great impact on how they view relationships and marriage, Jackson encourages millennial couples to work with an expert.
“[Millennial couples] have to have those conversations,” she said, “…how was money handled in your household growing up because that will give you a glimpse into how they’re possibly going to handle money in their marriage or in their relationship.”
It is also important for couples to set financial goals., otherwise they run the risk of running into financials later down the road., Unbeknownst to you, your partner may have a penchant for extravagant spending, bad credit ratings, or incurred significant debt. Whatever it is, before you walk down the aisle, you need to know if your betrothed is someone who can be trusted to make choices that are in the best interest of you and your significant other.
“Every couple needs to have financial goals,” Jackson said. “…[Whether] it’s saving up just to have an emergency fund or to go on vacation or to buy a house or to save up because you guys are going to have kids soon,” she said. “Whatever that looks like. everyone should have some type of financial goals and create a full strategic plan of how we’re going to get there and what we need to do to do it.”
Once a couple is married, Jackson says it is important for each person to start viewing his or her finances a part of a whole.
“When you are married, you become one,” Jackson said. “Your money also becomes one,” she said.
Each person in a relationship must view his or her individual income as part of one income combined with their significant other’s income regardless of how much each person makes.
For example, Dr. Jackson said, “if I’m bringing in $100,000 and you’re only bringing in $50,000, I’m not thinking I’m superior because I bring in [more] money,” she said. “I’m saying our household together, we make $150,000. Do you know how much we can do with 150K collectively?” Jackson asked.
Check out the rest of my interview with Jackson on Skooled where she offers advice for millennials couples trying to blend their finances in a healthy way that produces positive marital and relationship outcomes.