Fighting about money is one of the top causes of strife among couples, and one of the main reasons married couples land in divorce court.
Married or not, it’s important for couples to address the problems at the heart of their financial disagreements and start communicating. Otherwise these issues may fester and grow.
Instead of judging each other’s spending habits or fighting over money, couples can learn how to diffuse the tension that can quickly erupt–and then escalate–when they are talking about money, and start working on financial issues together as a team.
Here are some ways to help you start making conversations about household finances productive, and not a fight.
Common Causes of Couple Money Fights
While there are countless variations of money fights that can occur, these are a few common causes of money fights that couples tend to have that may sound familiar.
Sharing important account information
For some couples, there is a disconnect regarding sharing and organizing important financial account info.
Some couples struggle with privacy limits and may disagree upon what level of access their partner should have to their financial accounts. If one partner feels they don’t have fair access to financial accounts, passwords, and paperwork, resentment can build.
Married couples in particular may find it confusing and challenging to not have a full picture of their financial health or to not have clear access to important accounts and documentation.
Determining budgeting and spending limits
He likes to spend and enjoy his life. She likes to save for a rainy day because it’s hard to see what’s coming around the corner.
It happens all the time. Not all couples see eye to eye on how much they should be spending and this can lead to anger and tension.
Dealing with debt
If part of a couple brings debt with them to the relationship, it isn’t uncommon for the couples to disagree about who is responsible for paying off the debt.
Tackling debt can be stressful under the best circumstances, but it can really lead to turmoil and fighting if a romantic partner feels that the debt is an unfair burden on the relationship.
Savings and investing
Similar to disagreements relating to spending, some couples can’t come to agreement on how much money they should save and how they should be saving it.
One partner may feel investing their savings is the better path to a stronger financial future, whereas the other partner may find investing too risky and want to keep the money in a high yield savings account. This can cause turmoil if both partners’ chosen path forward is the only one they are comfortable with.
For young couples, retirement may feel impossibly far away, but preparing for retirement can’t start too early. When balancing a lot of different expenses, however, deciding as a couple how much money to save for retirement and what age they may want to retire can be challenging.
But couples who don’t have a plan for slowly and consistently saving for retirement can find themselves continually fighting about retirement savings. This is especially true if one partner is particularly worried about not being financially prepared for retirement.
How to Stop Fighting About Money
Chances are that quarrelling over finances isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun date night. Before the next money fight erupts, check out these tips for learning how to stop fighting about money.
Changing the way you talk about money
Honing your couple communication skills can help keep financial discussions from devolving into arguments.
When you’re discussing money, or any hot-button issue for that matter, the main goal of a productive talk is to really listen to each other and try to understand each other’s point of view, as opposed to jumping to conclusions or making accusations.
By empathizing with each other, partners can give themselves permission to admit past mistakes, and openly plan for the future.
One technique that can help with this is using “I” instead of “you” in your statements. For example, one partner might say, “I get frustrated when the bills aren’t paid on time. Can I help you out with that?” rather than, “you never pay the bills on time.”
Another is trying to avoid using the words “always” and “never” when discussing money matters, since these terms tend to come from emotions rather than reality, and can put the other partner immediately on the defensive.
Setting up a budget together
To help establish saving goals and monthly spending targets, a couple might begin by figuring out what their joint net worth is, then tracking income and expenses for a defined period (such as one or several months).
Once you know what you’re spending on (and if that’s what you want to be spending on), then you can work out a flexible budget, with short-term and long-term savings goals.
Planning ahead helps both partners agree on how much needs to be set aside for retirement or a down payment on a house, and how much you each can allocate to spend as you individually see fit.
Being open and honest
When we want to avoid conflict, it’s easy to omit key information. But even if a partner doesn’t outright lie about an expensive purchase or lending money to a family member, failing to share significant financial information can make the other partner feel like they’re being lied to and misled. This can breed distrust and cause unneeded financial stress.
It’s possible to nip these problems by being honest about financial decisions that may upset the other party in the relationship. As reluctant as you may be to bring these topics up, it can be better in the long run than hiding it from them or outright lying.
Establishing some boundaries
One way to avoid the need to cover up pricey purchases is to agree to a few simple rules about what spending decisions should be shared and what spending decisions are okay to make solo.
For example, one couple may decide they don’t need to alert each other about a purchase if it’s under $500. Another couple may agree to lend money to siblings when they need it, but only if the amount is under $5,000. Some couples may together decide to never lend money to friends or family under any circumstances.
Every couple will have different boundaries and limits, but by setting them (and then respectfully adhering to them) couples may stop feeling like they have to report their every financial move.
Setting up a joint account
One of the main pros of opening a joint checking account as a couple is that doing so can provide a clear financial picture.
A joint account allows couples to track spending and can make sticking to a budget easier, while also helping to foster openness and teamwork.
On the downside, sharing every penny can sometimes lead to tension and disagreements, especially if partners have different spending habits and personalities.
One solution might be to have a joint cash management account, as well as two individual accounts with a set amount of money to play with every month. This can give couples some freedom to spend on themselves without having to explain or feel guilty about their expenditures.
Teaming up against debt
Working together on a reasonable plan to start getting out of debt can help couples alleviate a major stress on their marriage.
One strategy for debt reduction might be making a list of all your debts by order of interest rate, from the highest percentage to the lowest. Then, while continuing to make all your minimum monthly payments on existing debts, the couple might decide to put as many extra payments as possible to the highest interest rate loan.
Or, they might decide to simply eliminate the smallest debt first, or look into converting various debts into a single loan.
Whatever plan you agree on, working on debt reduction can give you a shared goal to work toward together as a couple.
Scheduling a monthly financial check-in
Even if one partner takes on a bigger role in managing finances, paying bills, and keeping on top of the budget, both parties need to stay up to date on what is going on in their financial life.
Rather than only talking about your finances when you’re stressed about bills, a better strategy might be to set a specific time on your calendar each month to sit down together and review your recent spending, income, savings, bills, and how their investments are doing.
When couples know there’s a specific time to go over money issues, there can be less chance for resentment to build, and for one partner to attack another for a higher-than-usual credit-card statement.
If you can’t swing monthly meetings, then aim for quarterly, biannual, or at least annual financial sit-downs.
Getting help from an advisor
While spending more money may seem like an added stressor, couples who pay for a financial coach may find that they actually save more than the fee down the road.
And, it can be easier to talk about an emotionally charged subject like money with an unbiased third party, who can help diffuse tension and help couples agree on a smart spending and savings strategy.
Fighting over money, or finding it hard to talk openly and constructively about it, is a common source of friction between couples. Some strategies that can help include learning how to communicate about financial issues more productively, setting up monthly money check-ins, and letting each partner have some financial privacy.
For couples who are ready to integrate their finances, SoFi Money® makes it easy to create a joint account that gives couples shared access to their money.
Prefer to keep your finances separate? The SoFi Money app makes splitting bills and expenses easy by allowing you to send money directly from the app.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.