How to Make Financial Resolutions as a Couple


Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage — except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 8 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.

This week, the Fuchs talk about making financial planning resolutions for New Year’s. Should a married couple go it alone?

Mr. Fuchs: Time for New Year’s resolutions. As your husband, I’ll let you know mine — no more full pints of Ben & Jerry’s (Stock Quote: UN). It goes straight to my hips.

Mrs. Fuchs: New Year’s already? I wish you’d plan this far ahead when it comes time to buying my birthday present! Any other resolutions or just the ice cream one (which I believe you made last year too)?

Mr. Fuchs: Well, I’ve made my financial planning resolution already.

Mrs. Fuchs: Come again?

Mr. Fuchs: I’ve made my financial planning resolution for the coming year. I’m going to —

Mrs. Fuchs: Is this a resolution about your own spending or are you making a financial decision about our family finances?

Mr. Fuchs: What’s the difference?

Mrs. Fuchs: Well, there is a big difference don’t you think? You’re more than welcome to resolve to stop spending $8 on the Frappuccino (Stock Quote: SBUX) things you love but shouldn’t we work together to resolve how to spend our big bucks next year together?

Mr. Fuchs: I’ve never spent more than $7.50 on a cup of coffee. Besides, even if I make big plans, what’s the difference if I stick to my resolution and it works? Even Deborah Knuckey, who writes books on couples and personal finance like "Conscious Spending for Couple: Seven Skills for Financial Harmony" (Wiley), says there are circumstances in which solo resolutions within a marriage are cool.

Mrs. Fuchs: Well, how do you know it is something I agree with? Didn’t we have a whole sit-down to discuss our financial goals in previous columns? What does this Knuckey woman say anyway? Because I think a solo resolution is like writing one in lemon ink — it’ll disappear.

Mr. Fuchs: She says that, in general, it’s best that we make financial planning resolutions together, but if there is a clear division of finances or labor, they can be done apart. Of course, even there, she suggests that the more involved partner clue the other one in on the New Year’s resolution, so they don’t accidentally undermine it. And, admittedly, she does say that ultimately "it’s easier if you are on the same page." In light of that, Honey, I’ve reformed. My private resolution was to spend way more on your birthday presents, but I’ll have to rescind that one, because it was made alone and we might not be on the same page. So long Tiffany’s (Stock Quote: TIF)! It’ll be great not knowing you.

Mrs. Fuchs: Very funny. In all seriousness, what Knuckey is saying sounds reasonable ... along the lines of what I was saying, of course.  Separately, did she have any easily achievable suggestions for New Year's financial resolutions for couples?

Mr. Fuchs: Funny you should ask. Knuckey said that the New Year’s resolution of visiting a financial planner is an easy one. It doesn’t take a lot of work, planning or self-control. Just find a good one that is independent, so they won’t sell you crummy in-house products for a high commission. You’ll probably learn something and take your planning — jointly — to the next level. All in all, easier to accomplish than giving up ice cream. And on that I speak from experience.

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