Marriage May Not Save Your Savings Habits

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Marriage can be one of the most important financial decisions you'll ever make (no matter how many times you make it). Money problems are also one of the biggest stressors of any relationship. If you're looking to your matrimonial union to iron out your bad financial habits, however, you could be in for an unpleasant ride.

Japanese researchers have just released a study of married couples in Vietnam. It looks at spending styles and what happens to households with differing goals. If one spouse prefers immediate rewards over long-term payoffs, being married does not help them actually save money individually. Even joint decisions get watered down by present bias, which is the same thing that trips us up when planning for the future.

If you recognize yourself in that abstract, don't despair. There are systems already set up that can help you protect your savings down the line. One the researchers mention is a rotating savings and credit association, or ROSCA. This spreads both risk and responsibility by increasing the pool of contributors, which could temper inclinations to hold back. Just knowing about the issue, however, can go a long way toward forming a plan to counteract those tendencies.

Couples tend to settle in together when their salaries equalize; they also tend to delegate financial tasks and lose sight of the big picture. But putting together joint accounts can be a good opportunity to refine your financial habits — not least because 22 percent of Americans could stand to be more honest about money with a partner. Taking the time to set up a system will help everyone involved, and the payoff can last for years to come.