THE BLOG

Parents: Have a Money Plan

06/18/2013 01:10 pm ET | Updated Aug 18, 2013

All couples have disagreements and bumps in the road of married life, but couples that argue over finance once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couple who argue only a few times a month.

As soon as kids enter the picture of your life, it's time to start planning your future with them in mind. Kids enter the picture as soon as you start considering having a family. From that moment on, your financial picture is centered around your kids -- they are at the heart of all your financial decisions.

Principal Expenses to Ponder

  • Conception and birth:
  • Prenatal medical care, maternity clothes, doctor and hospital expenses, furnishing the nursery and incidental expenses.

  • Housing:
  • Will you need a bigger place for your expanding family or remodel your current place? Do you know the quality of the schools in your current district?

  • Parental leave and child care:
  • How long will you take off from work after the baby is born? Will your partner take time off also? Which of you will return to work first? What child-care plans will you make and how much will this cost? Will one of you stay at home to care for the child? This can make financial sense.

  • Education and enrichment:
  • Will you send your children to private school? What about preschool? Depending on where you live, you may have to choose a preschool before your child starts to talk.

  • College:
  • This is a major expense which keeps growing all the time. You must start preparing for it early.

  • Special expenses:
  • These can be anything, including elective medical expenses like braces for their teeth, senior prom and even the eventual wedding. Think about what was important to you when you were young -- how much did your parents have to pay for?

You Can Lessen the Marital Money Arguments

Should you pool all of your money and investments, or keep them all separate? Perhaps you will choose some combination. The important thing here is that you talk about it, and before you talk about it, think about it. Make sure you know what you want, and what plan suits you best.

Talk to one another about family finances. Discuss your financial philosophy, how you will each contribute, who will pay for what, how you will handle large money decisions and have an investment strategy.

Setting up (and sticking to) a family budget is the best tool to help keep you in focus and remove stress factors. Remember that there are fixed expenses such as housing (and related costs), transportation, utilities, food and insurance.

Then, there are the medium term and long term savings goals -- buying a house, new car, kids' education. These should be well defined, agreed upon and saved for each pay period.

Short term saving and Quick Cash can be a real source of aggravation. Each of you should have some money to use entirely as you wish. Remember, if your husband uses his money for new fishing gear -- that's his choice to make.

You have to be transparent with one another. Keeping money secrets will destroy your marriage and harm your family. I counseled a couple for a segment on Oprah, who were in real financial trouble. The husband handled the family finances into major debt. The wife knew they were in trouble but had no idea of the extent. He estimated that they were about $15,000 in debt but the actual figure was closer to $50,000 -- they were on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce.

When I asked him how the finances had gotten so far out of control, he said that he wanted his wife and kids to have the lifestyle he thought they deserved and was worried that they would think less of him knowing he couldn't provide all those things.

Come to an agreement regarding your kids and money. Put your kids on an allowance system and a budget and make sure, as a family, you stick to your agreement. Don't give in to your kid's wants behind your spouse's back -- you can't buy their affection.

You're probably not going to be 100 percent money argument free but you can reduce the number and lessen the severity of the problems as they arise. When you do argue over money, don't do it in front of your kids. Research has shown that children of parents who argue about money are more likely to be burdened by credit card debt as college students.

Do you have a couple's money issue to share with us? Please use the space provided.