Forgiveness is an important concept for couples who have financial problems. Couples need to talk over past mistakes, come to a level of forgiveness, and focus on going through every bill and financial statement to develop a viable financial strategy. This process takes time, trust, and commitment in relationships to move forward. The advice of marriage and relationship skills and financial educators working together can help couples to set realistic goals and work through problems.
Financial and relationship skills educators are often in the position of helping couples to address past mistakes. Some of these mistakes may have been individual mistakes and some may have occurred with other partners. Either way, the financial aspects are often linked with emotional issues. A few key preventive steps may save a great deal of trauma later. The financial checklist that is often part of premarital preparation is also a key part of financial literacy for couples. It highlights that avoiding the day-to-day issues of financial health can lead to day-to-day problems. Figure 6 provides some tips from practitioners working with couples to help their financial planning and solving financial problems.
Another common theme from both fields is that there is no one solution that fits every couple, and part of creating a healthy relationship and healthy finances is that couples need to work through their own situation together. Building the communication and conflict resolution skills to be able to do this is hard work. Again, both financial and marriage skills educators agree that success comes from how problems are handled, as all couples face emotional and financial decisions and complexities.
Perhaps the most common theme for financial and relationship skills educators is finding an early point of entry into a couple’s life. Help-seeking steps are often taken when problems have become large and overwhelming, yet resolution may be easier the earlier that the problems are detected. In looking for ways to change the default options to promote financial and family stability, it could be that premarital counseling is a natural point of entry. Other potential entry points where materials could be distributed, practitioners could refer to other programs, or staff could be cross-trained include:
- credit counseling specialists,
- bank loan officers,
- local pastors,
- wedding planners,
- pediatricians at well-baby visits,
- new parents’ goodie bags,
- IDA participants, and
- marriage education participants.
In addition, marriage and relationship skills education providers who are helping noncustodial parents improve communication with their partners can also help them develop financial strategies by working with the local child support agency to help develop realistic payment plans to address accumulated arrears, make immediate referrals to reputable credit counselors, and make referrals to employment and job training programs. Several community-based marriage education programs serving couples have forged strong links with financial literacy and home ownership programs to help couples continue to address immediate financial issues, plan for the future, and develop assets. At the same time, IDA programs are encouraged to build linkages with local marriage education and family strengthening programs to address the sometimes thorny conversations about money and credit.