But on The Early Show Tuesday, money maven and radio talk show host Dave Ramsey showed how spouses can stop fighting over their finances, which can work wonders for a marriage. Experts say disagreements over money are among the leading causes of divorce.
According to Ramsey, there are two types of people in the world: nerds and free spirits, and they often wind up married to each other. Inevitably, the pairing leads to conflict, particularly when it comes to financial issues.
Chances are you already know if you're a nerd or a free spirit, Ramsey says, but maybe you haven't defined yourself that way. Basically, nerds are planners. Nerds need the desk drawer organized. Nerds like looking at the bills to see how much they've spent on electricity that month. Free spirits are the opposite of nerds. Free spirits never really look at the check register, or make solid plans for retirement. It's not that they don't care about the family finances; they simply have faith everything is going to work out just fine without so much darned planning.
Ramsey clarifies that being a free spirit or a nerd has nothing to do with spending habits. A nerd can be a big spender while a free spirit may be a saver. The problem here is that nerds feel free spirits don't take money seriously, and they get annoyed. Free spirits feel their input on financial issues is totally ignored, and their feelings get hurt. Clearly, in such a situation, squabbles are hard to avoid.
The answer, Ramsey stresses, isn't ignoring the problem by never discussing money, or by letting one person in the marriage handle all of the finances. Believe it or not, agreeing on financial issues builds unity in a marriage: It brings spouses closer together. When you agree on how to spend money, you are agreeing on what's important to you as a family. You're laying out plans for the future and setting goals. Finding common ground on these issues is more powerful than you can imagine, Ramsey says.
He says the logical place to begin finding common ground is with the family budget. Don't worry, this discussion doesn't have to spell disaster. Ramsey has rules for both nerds and free spirits to follow during discussions about money.
First off, he suggests holding a "meeting" to discuss the budget. The nerd should draw up the initial budget, or re-present the current budget if you already have one. Even if you do have a family budget in place, there's a good chance the free spirit isn't familiar with it. However, just because the nerd is organizing the budget certainly doesn't mean that person is in charge.
Ramsey has several "rules of conduct" for any budget discussion: