6 ways to keep money from wrecking your relationship.
Story: Pamela Yellen
A few years ago, I asked readers to participate in a quiz on money and relationships. Among the findings:An amazing 31 percent admitted to keeping spending secrets from their partner, including lying about what they paid for something, hiding purchases altogether, or taking money from their partner’s purse or wallet without asking.
Almost half of the respondents said they never discussed money or financial planning before committing to each other.
Almost 70 percent reported that money causes stress in their relationships.
Based on recent research, couples are more likely to fight over finances than they are to sit down and calmly discuss money issues. Among 1,400 Americans who are married or in a serious relationship, 36 percent reported that money caused the most stress in their relationships, according to a recent Harris Poll survey on behalf of Ally Bank. Meanwhile, Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study finds that money is the primary source of stress among Americans.
So how can you make sure that disagreements over money don’t destroy your relationship? Here are six practical and easy ways to establish good communication with your partner, help you avoid money arguments, and build more joy, trust, and mutual satisfaction:
1. Recognize money is an emotional issue.
For many men who are wired to be providers, money brings up issues of self-worth, so they take financial conflict to heart. For many women, money represents security, so problems or disputes can bring anxiety and even fear about survival. Tip: Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and not rushed to start discussing money issues.
2. Talk, talk, and talk some more about your finances together.
As in most issues within a relationship, good communication is vital. Tip: Set goals together and track your progress as you work through these steps.
3. Agree about dividing your money.
If you’ve been together for years and have stumbled along without a clear understanding and agreement in this area, it’s never too late to start. Tip: Start now. Common topics include individual discretionary spending, household expenses, retirement savings, and extended family responsibilities.
4. Avoid taking on too much debt.
Couples who live within their means tend to be the happiest, while those with too much debt tend to fight more often and be more stressed about money. Tip: Instead of constantly talking about the burden of debt, discuss your financial goals: where you’d really like to be, and how you’ll get there. Rather than letting debt issues drive you apart, facing debt as a team actually can strengthen your relationship.
5. Never engage in financial infidelity.
Financial cheating can be devastating in a relationship. One study found that a full one-third of couples with combined finances had not been completely honest about financial issues. Tip: If you haven’t been fully honest regarding finances, now is the time to clean it up! Begin the conversation with something like, “I know that neither of us is perfect when it comes to money. Our relationship is important to me, so I want to make sure we have a foundation of honesty about our finances.” No matter what comes up, stay calm, avoid judgment, and focus on positive solutions going forward.
6. Understand and acknowledge different spending habits.
People tend to look for a spouse who looks, sounds, and acts as they do—except when it comes to money. It turns out that penny-pinchers tend to marry reckless spenders; as a result, they report unhappier marriages than couples who have similar spending habits. Tip: Seek to understand rather than correct each other. If something in your partner’s attitude bothers you, share how you feel and why. If you can, find a compromise, but don’t try to “fix” your partner.
Talking about money with your partner may feel uncomfortable at first. But the rewards of clear, honest financial communication are lasting. To keep your relationship healthy, it’s critical to discuss your differences and come up with compromises that work for both of you.
About the writer
Pamela Yellen is a financial investigator and the author of two best-selling books, including her latest, “The Bank On Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future.”