Can love + money add up to a happy ending for you and your partner? That depends on how seriously you commit to tackling your financial life as a team. You’ll stack the deck in your favor if you can view money issues as opportunities to strengthen your relationship.
There’s a powerful incentive for becoming a financially competent couple. Evidence shows that how you manage money has a lot to do with your relationship’s success:
- 35% of couples with relationship stress cite finances as the primary cause, according to a recent Harris Poll survey.
- Money issues are the third leading cause of divorce, finds the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.
- Arguments over money are the top predictor of divorce, reveals the National Survey of Families and Households by Kansas State University. That holds true across all levels of income, debt, and net worth.
It Goes Deeper Than Dollars and Cents
Money represents much more than numbers on a spreadsheet. Your financial habits are outward expressions of deeper issues such as values, life goals, self-worth, and the power balance and trust in a relationship.
For example, do you envision a modest lifestyle while your partner believes enjoying luxuries is the major benefit of prosperity? What if your significant other wants to start maxing out retirement contributions right away and you want to log some world travels first?
If it seems like financial planning is an emotional minefield, know that there’s a major upside. With some guidelines in place, money talks can actually improve your relationship.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is the most important factor in financial planning as a couple. It’s a necessity if you want to make money decisions that work for both of you. Here are some basic guidelines to get you started:
- Make money talks a regular part of your life as a couple. The ideal time to begin is before you move in together or marry. The stakes aren’t as high and you can get on the same page from the start. That said, clearing the air and getting back on track can benefit couples at any stage in their relationship.
- Set a specific time and goal(s) for each money talk. Don’t try to tackle too many issues at once and avoid marathon sessions. Clarity and compromise can fly out the window when you’ve both just come home hungry after a hard day at work.
- Start with understanding each other’s values and attitudes about money. When you know what’s important to each of you, you can build a financial plan that fits your real day-to-day life.
- Be honest about what you each bring to the table. That includes credit card debt, outstanding loans, and credit scores. Financial infidelity—hidden debt, stealth purchases, secret bank accounts—can seriously and permanently damage the trust built between you and your partner.
- View each other as financial equals with an equal say in money matters no matter who brings home the biggest paycheck.
- Raise issues before resentment builds. Even when you aren’t arguing about money, you or your partner may be nursing hard feelings about overlooked priorities. Make your money talks a blame-free zone where you can both discuss whatever’s on your mind without pointing fingers.
- Reach out for help! Money discussions can feel overwhelming, especially when they haven’t been a regular part of your relationship. A financial planner can offer a neutral setting and a toolbox full of strategies you haven’t considered. For example, you can balance what appeared to be competing goals, such as a retirement account vs. a college fund or emergency savings vs. leisure spending.
FJY Financial stands ready to help you and your partner develop a sound financial plan that works for both of you.