Unless you’re fabulously wealthy and plan to spend your time with your partner taking lavish vacations and relishing your financial acumen, money probably doesn’t sound like a very romantic topic. For many couples, money and financial issues come up only when there’s trouble, and some people steadfastly avoid discussion of finances until they’re several years into a relationship. Financial disagreements, however, are one of the most common causes of stress and arguments within romantic relationships, and play a major role in many divorces.
If you and your partner disagree about how to manage money, the time to deal with the issue is now. Waiting until there’s a major conflict can spell disaster for your relationship and your finances.
Use the Right Accounting System
Don’t allow yourself to simply fall into a financial management system. Take some time to figure out what works for you. If you have vastly different spending styles, try getting separate checking accounts. Use these accounts for discretionary purchases, and then put money for shared expenses—such as vacations or a mortgage—into a joint account. This way, you’re sharing expenses, but you have some discretion about purchases for yourselves, gifts, and impulse buys. If, however, one of you tends to overspend or keep secrets regarding money, a single shared account may be the best way to ensure you’re staying on track. Don’t be afraid to try several different methods until you find something that feels comfortable and right for you.
You might be embarrassed about all that debt you racked up in college, or afraid your partner will judge you because you like designer shoes. Lying about money, however, can doom your relationship—some money experts even use the term “financial infidelity.” If you’ve kept things from your beloved, it’s time to come clean. If, however, you’re beginning a new relationship and you’re unsure of when to share financial details, reveal them as they become relevant. But avoid lying, even if it means admitting you’ve made some mistakes in the past.
Make Shared Financial Goals
Developing a shared budget and long-term financial goals can help you both get motivated to rein in the spending and start saving for a rainy day. Sit down with your spouse and talk about retirement, investments, planning for kids and college, and how you’ll fund vacations and other luxuries. If you know how you want to spend your money, it will be easier to keep day-to-day financial issues under control. Sitting down to come up with a joint plan can bring you closer together, enabling you both to have a voice in your financial strategy.
Don’t Expect Compliance
There’s no single “right” way to manage money, and adopting a “my way or the highway” attitude can even be a form of emotional abuse. You don’t have to like or understand how your partner spends money. As long as he or she is not wrecking your long-term financial future, cut him/her some slack. Each of you should have some discretion when it comes to daily expenses and disposable income, and neither party should be allowed to act as financial dictator. When one partner takes control over financial decisions, it can lead to financial secrecy and chronic conflict.
Live Within Your Means
No matter what financial management strategy you choose, living within your means should be a primary goal. This can mean different things to different couples. Some might choose to aim for complete austerity, never buying anything extra until they’ve paid off every last debt. Others might work toward paying down student loans while building up savings to buy a house. If either of you is spending recklessly, however, it’s time to have a serious conversation about what it means to live within your means and how you can get the spending under control. It might not be a fun conversation, but it can save you from serious relationship problems down the road.
- Four tips to help communicate with your spouse about money. (2013, February 4). Equifax Finance Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.equifax.com/family-money/four-tips-to-help-communicate-with-your-spouse-about-money/
- Love & money: 25 financial tips for couples. (n.d.). Wife.org. Retrieved from http://www.wife.org/love-money-25-financial-tips-for-couples.htm
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