Scurrying around the tax preparation world (taking note of the IRS’s recent “suggestion” to NOT call their phone support — which is fine for you, because you have *this* number: (410) 224-2600), I still come back to the big question of the week: how did Valentine’s go?

Some say it’s a “Hallmark Holiday”, but some spouses think otherwise, right? Well, if you blew it, I’ve heard that it’s NEVER too late. So make this week count, my friend.

Now this past weekend’s festivities aren’t the only experience I have with the language of love. You see, we meet with married couples almost every week in the course of preparing tax returns and handling other¬†matters. It’s part of what we do — and as we do, we get sort of a crash course in marital communication.

Before you get worried — know that we don’t pass judgment on anyone’s marriage! Everyone has their own, unique relational dynamic. And every marriage works a little bit differently — it’s part of what makes it a wonderful institution.

And, after all, nobody has ever accused me of being a “love doctor”.

That said, however, I’ve noticed that *finances* can be a major sticking point in a good marriage.

But there are some simple steps you can take (five, by my count), which will ensure that you don’t ever fall into the trap of letting a good marriage be spoiled by money miscommunication.

Read on, and send your feedback. And, of course, if you need help with any of this, or if you have any pressing tax issues or questions, email me back, or call us at (410) 224-2600 . We *love* serving YOU!

Valerie McLaughlin’s
“Real World” Personal Strategy Note

Protect Your Marriage Through Wise Stewardship
“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, Make Me Feel Important. Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” – Mary Kay Ash

Far too many marriages fall apart. And, sadly, one of the most often-cited reasons for that being the case is financial angst.

We’ve seen enough beautiful marriages around here, that I believe that I can put together a few commonalities of how finances are handled in some of the best of relationships — be they marriage, or otherwise…

Start saving when you’re young. Every seven years you delay starting a savings plan cuts in half your ultimate net worth in retirement. Chances are that you know someone who’s getting married this year so send them a copy of this article. It may be more valuable than any check you write.

Budgeting together. Couples that share church activities or philanthropic causes do better financially because their common vision allows them to work together instead of pulling in different directions. They do well while doing good.

So, the more chances you have to do something which helps you to clarify your shared vision, the better the marriage team. Even the simple process of creating and adjusting a family budget provides a forum for discussion of what is really important to the family.

Realize that a budget brings freedom — not constraint. Couples without a budget can, and often do, fight over every dollar spent. But couples who have worked together on a budget are already in agreement on the big picture. Once the difficult decisions are made, the specific purchases in each category are much less critical.

Here’s one way this works (among many): Having decided how much money the family can afford to spend on clothes for him and for her, it doesn’t matter as much if he prefers lots of inexpensive clothes and she prefers a few nice pieces, or vice versa. A budget allows discretion and freedom to prevail within the context of cooperation and teamwork.

Pay your family first! Even if it hurts, at first, saving equals paying yourself. And don’t worry in the beginning overly much about where you’re placing your savings — only after you’ve saved your annual salary does the rate of appreciation become more important than the actual rate of savings. The main thing, early on, is to do it!

Because money makes money. And the money that money makes, makes even more money.

Limit the amount you spend unless you both agree. One big mistake can undo months of frugality and sacrifice. So it’s a good idea, that for big purchases, you require both members of the team to agree. Honoring each other in this way helps avoid resentment and disgust.

Have a small slush fund. Both members of a marriage should have a slice of the budget which is completely at their discretion. So long as their spending stays within this thin slice of the budget pie, they can be completely frivolous. Maybe it’s only 0.5% of your total budget, but it’ll provide a place to put purchases which otherwise might cause marital strife.

If one member collects ceramic pink pigs and the other signed collectible hockey cards they can both enjoy their frivolous expenditures without jeopardizing budget items that are more important to the family.

Couples that learn to live proportionately maintain their balance, whether they are rich or poor. No matter the circumstances, they include some fun, some gifting, and some investing as a reflection of their shared family values.

And it starts with having the conversation. So do it!

And once again, allow me to remind you that though we are VERY busy right now, we always have time for you. Give us a call at (410) 224-2600 , and let’s get your tax return started right now…

Warmly,

Valerie McLaughlin
(410) 224-2600