They say you should never discuss religion or politics at a dinner party, but money talk seems to cause even more discomfort among strangers and friends, alike. According to a SunTrust Bank survey, finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship. Let’s look at three reasons why finances can cause so much friction and how to address them through healthy communication.
1. Differing Outlooks On Money
One of the big reasons is that multiple studies show that men and women view saving
and finances differently. Men are more likely to take risks with money than women.
Motivational speaker and budgeting expert, Dave Ramsey, explains that men use money
as a scorecard, whereas women see it as a security issue. As a result, women may
experience a higher level of fear when money problems arise.
2. Financial Infidelity
Beyond differing views, some couples may experience shame, secrecy, and resentment
regarding spending. According to a CreditCards.com poll, 1 in 5 Americans have spent
$500 or more without their partner’s knowledge, and 6% have maintained hidden bank
accounts or used secret credit cards. This is most often done so a spouse can avoid
conflict within his or her relationship.
3. Uneven Spending Between Spouses
It’s not uncommon for one spouse to spend more than the other. Interestingly enough,
people are more likely to consider themselves the saver. That same SunTrust survey
mentioned earlier revealed that 34% of respondents said they were the saver and that
their partner was the spender, and 13% said the reverse. This means that 47% of
respondents say they and their partner have different spending and saving habits.
Uneven spending can quickly cause friction as the saver may feel that the spender isn’t
managing his or her money well. And on the other side, the spender may feel as though
his or her spouse is micromanaging his or her habits.
Whether you have or are currently experiencing some or all of these issues, money doesn’t
have to be a pain point. Here are a few simple strategies that may help couples stay on the
same page and eliminate the discomforts of money talk.
Be Honest About Spending
Whether you’re married or live together, have a joint account or separate bank accounts, it’s
important for both partners to offer full disclosure of their finances and be open about expenses.
You and your spouse should be aware of how you spend your money, especially when it comes
to significant costs, loans, or ongoing fees. Studies show that around 49% of financial
arguments are about unexpected expenses. By maintaining an open line of communication
regarding upcoming bills, you may be able to avoid such confrontations.
Some people are spenders while others are savers. It’s important for a couple to be on the
same page regarding their finances. How much can be spent per month on non-essentials?
How much is too much for a new pair of shoes? Establish and agree upon a few basic
guidelines and structure for how you will spend and save money. If one of you is more
disciplined than the other, you may consider having the disciplined spouse manage the monthly
budget and spending.
Most often, one spouse acts as the financial manager of the household, paying and maintaining
all bills, budgets, savings, investments, and insurance policies. However, it can be helpful for
both partners to understand their spending versus their saving. If time allows, sit down together
once a month to review credit card statements, account transactions, and other bills and check
for any possible errors. This helps you both recognize any spending patterns and stay on the
same track with your financial goals.
Enlist the Help of an Objective Third-Party
Sometimes the best way to ease money tensions is to work with an objective third-party,
whether that’s a financial advisor, a marriage counselor, or both. A financial advisor can work
with you and your spouse together to review your financial landscape, identify any gaps in your
coverage, assist you in establishing short and long-term goals, help you stay on track, and
provide professional and knowledgeable advice. Some couples seek guidance from a marriage
counselor for assistance with building stronger lines of communication and compromise.
Although spending and budgeting can cause tension, it doesn’t have to become a constant
source of concern in a relationship. Invest the time to address spending habits and savings
goals, uphold transparency regarding bills, and communicate effectively (whether that’s
amongst the two of you or with the help of an advisor or counselor).
As a former therapist and current financial advisor, I enjoy working closely with couples and
helping them establish healthy financial habits, work through life transitions, and pursue their
goals. If you have questions about your financial situation or more ways to communicate about
money, I’d be happy to help. Give my office a call at 817.744.8450 or send me an email at
Tom Chancellor is a Certified Financial Planner Professional helping clients enhance their financial peace of mind. Tom spent 20 years as a marriage and family therapist and now incorporates resources from psychology, communications, and relationship studies in financial planning for people who experience life-changing events. Tom helps his clients and other financial professionals respond to life transitions such as divorce, death of a spouse, retirement, receipt of an inheritance and legal settlements. Contact Tom with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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