Couples Are Arguing About Money: How To Establish a Financially Savvy Partnership

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Managing your finances isn’t easy — especially when collaborating with your partner. If the two of you are no strangers to bickering about this topic, you’re not alone.

Nearly half — 47% — of couples argue about money at least sometimes, according to a recent GOBankingRates survey.

This makes sense because people can’t always think clearly when money and love commingle, said Cara Macksoud, certified financial behavior specialist® and CEO of Money Habitudes.

“Personal finances are more important than anything else in the relationship,” she said. “They supersede everything in a relationship.”

In fact, she said personal finance is so important in a relationship, she thinks it should be a part of Tinder profiles.

“Finances should be brought up as soon as possible in any relationship,” she said.

If you’re tired of arguing with your spouse about money, it’s time to make a change. Here are eight steps from financial experts to help you establish a financially savvy partnership.

Leverage Shared Values To Increase Financial Intimacy

Shared values drew you and your partner together, so Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, certified financial therapist and personal finance expert at Mind Money Balance, said to use these ideals to find common ground on money matters.

“When it comes to love and money, it’s important to consider the emotions and values you and your partner often associate with spending,” she said. “Aligning on financial values can help curb impulsive spending and encourage budgeting towards shared goals, deepening a relationship.”

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Challenge Each Other as a Team

Creating financial goals together and encouraging each other to meet them makes this a joint effort, instead of each of you feeling like you’re working alone.

“Setting spending and savings goals with your partner that you challenge each other to meet can make even the most doldrum of financial tasks fun, exciting and motivating,” Bryan-Podvin said. “Plus, rewarding yourselves for your accomplishments, like saving for ‘date night,’ can help combat feelings of guilt or remorse from spending money on each other.”

Break the ‘Money Conversation’ Barrier

When you know financial conversations tend to cause fights, it can be tempting to steer clear of them, but Bryan-Podvin said this isn’t the answer.

“Many couples avoid money conversations as they can cause tension, but avoidance won’t make the discomfort of money in a relationship magically disappear,” she said. “An honest conversation about financial realities and expectations can help you and your partner feel more at ease, both financially and intimately.”

Schedule a Financial Date Night

Getting even more specific with financial conversations, Mark Fenske, a financial advisor with Country Trust Bank in Portland, Oregon, suggested scheduling regular financial date nights with your partner to ensure key topics are discussed often.

He recommended writing down your goals and questions for one another ahead of time, so that if the conversation gets heated, you don’t forget them.

“Take turns stating what’s important to you,” he said. “Going back and forth will ensure you’re both getting equal time to share values and goals.”

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During this time, he said it’s important to disconnect from outside distractions.

“By taking the conversation out of the house — i.e., aka date night — you’ll be present and focused without kids, TV, dogs, etc. and you’ll be more likely to have a productive conversation and establish a well working, financially savvy partnership,” he said.

Set a Specific Timeframe

Another way to make your financial conversations a success, you should set a specific timeline for the chat and stick to it, said Mariana Martinez, senior lead family dynamics consultant at Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management.

“Accomplish what you can in say, 30 minutes, and schedule conversations as needed until you learn to see eye-to-eye, if you will,” she said.

Stick To the Facts

Money is a topic that can get very emotional, but Martinez said making accusations against your partner isn’t the way to get your point across.

“Avoid bringing up abstract or subjective conversations such as, ‘You are irresponsible with our money,'” she said. “But rather, come prepared with facts, documentation to support your angle of the conversation and make it as factual as possible.”

Understand Each Other’s Prospective

It can be hard to understand why your partner feels a certain way about money, so Martinez said taking the time to recognize where they’re coming from is a must.

“Consider why you feel the way you do, and then, contemplate or inquire why your significant other feels the way they do,” she said. “When you both express and listen to why you feel the way you do, you’re more likely to gain compassion and understanding.”

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For example, she said she once ran into a situation with clients where both partners were raised with limited resources, but one vowed to never become a penny-pincher with their own children. However, the other partner believed in this practice as it allowed their family to get by growing up.

“In this case, they each wrote down why they were frustrated, and one agreed to loosen up a bit,” she said. “The other agreed to provide better reporting of financial transactions to ease anxiety.”

Focus On the Three G’s

To move forward together, Martinez recommended creating a plan centered on the three G’s — goals, gratitude and grit.

She said you need to set financial goals together.

“Specifically, discuss specific goals and create a common plan,” she said. “For example, if you both agree that your children’s education is paramount, you also need to discuss any sacrifices that must be made in order to meet this common goal.”

As for gratefulness, she said changing your outlook can make all the difference.

“When you have gratitude or an abundance mindset, I find that you are more creative in finding opportunities to meet your goals,” she said.

Achieving shared financial goals might not be easy, but she said putting in the work will pay off.

“Jointly recognize that it may take some time to reach your goals, but grit and tenacity will help get you there,” she said. “Money has meaning, and you will continue to have many conversations along the way to meeting your goals.”

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Establishing a financially savvy partnership might always be a work in progress — and that’s OK. As long as you’re both committed to the cause, you’ll be able to work together to ensure each of you feels in control of your money.

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,005 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country on between January 16 and 18, 2023, asking twenty different questions: (1) Do you currently have any form of an emergency fund?; (2) How much do you currently have put away for an emergency fund?; (3) If you faced an emergency (medical, housing, etc.) how would you have to pay for it?; (4) How much do you currently have saved for retirement?; (5) Do you have any of the following debt? (Select all that apply); (6) How much debt (student loans, medical, auto/personal loan, credit card, etc.) do you currently have? (NOT including mortgage); (7) If you have a significant other, how much do you argue about money concerns?; (8) Which money topics do you discuss with your children? (Select all that apply); (9) How often do you discuss personal finance issues with your family and/or friends?; (10)What are the chances, in an average month, of you and your family running out of money before you are paid next?; (11) What worries you most when it comes to your personal finances?; (12) Compared to pre-COVID (before March 2020) are you more or less confident in your personal finances?; (13) If you received an unexpected bonus of $5,000, what’s the first thing you would do with it?; (14) If you won the lottery ($100 million), which of the following would you do with the winnings? (Select all that apply); (15) Would you rather…ask a family or friend to borrow money or max out a credit card?; (16) What would you like to learn more about in order to improve your personal finances?; (17) Do you consider yourself a spender or a saver?; (18) Which categories do you believe you overspend on? (Select all that apply); (19) How much do you spend on self care monthly?; and (20) What is your top financial priority?. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.


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