Love is very emotional, and we do curious things under its spell. One of the peculiar things many love-struck couples do is to avoid the money conversation, yet it’s one of most important matters in a relationship.
“Money is the number one topic of conflict in relationships,” says Atlanta-based financial psychologist Dr. Mary Gresham.
Although financial matters are just one component of a healthy, lasting and loving relationship, a recent study by Ally Bank found more than half of Americans (55 percent) consider a strong budgeting and saving strategy to be the most appealing money management trait in a significant other.
Dr. Gresham says money is valued differently by each individual throughout their life. “One person may view money as security, so saving is a priority for them, while the other person enjoys spending — so as a couple, their values don’t always match up.”
Gresham emphasizes that having money conversations and total financial transparency is crucial in achieving the big-picture plan and avoiding damaging conflict.
Couples that have infrequent money conflicts often participate in regular open and honest conversations about their financials goals and values. Dr. Gresham suggests the following discussion points when seeking financial harmony with your partner.
- Relationship goals: No doubt talking about money can be uncomfortable and awkward, but learning how to have an open dialogue is a very important skill. “Break the money taboo – work out your financial goals with your partner,” says Gresham. Consider what goals you share: Are college tuition, a child’s wedding or an early retirement on the horizon?
- Current and future financial situation: For some couples financial disputes stem from supporting boomerang children or disagreements over when to retire. Take stock of your income and expenses, assets and debts and your overall financial health. Will you need to reduce any debt or spending in order to help your child get back on their feet or to take early retirement?
- Spending/Saving attitudes: Gresham says that with conflicted couples, one person is designated as the saver while the other falls into the role of spender and vice versa. Newlyweds in second marriages with blended families will often have their financial differences amplified, so successfully mixing money styles is often a top priority. Our survey found that a majority of respondents (76 percent) believe it is of moderate to high importance to find a significant other with a similar philosophy toward money and finances. Your background and experiences often influences how you think about money. Understanding how your partner approaches financial matters will make it easier to craft a money plan that suits you both. Try to find common ground so that you are working together.
- Shared money management: How do you handle the finances as a couple? Does one person look after household expenses, mortgage and savings, or do you share the responsibility? Our survey results revealed that 45 percent of respondents say they manage the finances together, with males and females evenly split. Gresham says managing finances as a team is one of the best ways to achieve financial harmony. “It may take more time, awareness and conversation, but it’s worth it in the long run.”
- Money dates: Make a date, either bi-weekly or monthly to talk about finances. Whether it’s to catch up on your savings/retirement balances, deliberating big-ticket purchases, or even simple adjustments to the monthly budget — the more frequent the conversation, the easier it is to discuss.
Gresham says shared understanding, compromise and continual dialogue is the core of a healthy relationship and healthy finances.
“No matter how you work out your financial goals, you have to work together as a team.”
How comfortable do you feel discussing your finances with your partner/significant other? When do you think the conversation should start?