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 to address the problems at the heart of 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 start working on financial issues together as a team.
Here are some ways to help you make money discussions productive, and not a fight.
Common Causes of Couple Money Fights
While there are countless variations of money fights you might have, these are a few of the most common triggers:
Sharing important account information
Some couples struggle with privacy limits and financial security, and they 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 complete financial health.
Determining budgeting and spending limits
Maybe one of you likes to spend and enjoy life. And the other likes to save for a rainy day. This disconnect 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 one partner 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, and it can lead to turmoil and fighting if a romantic partner feels the debt is an unfair burden on the relationship.
Savings and investing
Some couples can’t agree 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, but 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.
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When you’re balancing a lot of different expenses, deciding as a couple how much money to save for retirement and what age they may want to retire can be challenging.
But those 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 the future.
How to Stop Fighting About Money
Before your next money fight erupts, try these tips to help stop the arguing.
Changing the way you talk about money
Working on your communication skills can help keep financial discussions from devolving into arguments.
When you’re discussing money, the main goal of a productive talk is to really listen to each other and try to understand the other person’s point of view, as opposed to jumping to conclusions or making accusations.
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 method is trying to avoid using the words “always” and “never” when discussing money matters. These terms can put the other person immediately on the defensive.
Setting up a budget together
Creating a budget as a couple is key. To help establish your saving goals and monthly spending targets, begin by figuring out what your joint net worth is. Then track your income and expenses for several months.
Once you know what you’re spending money on, you can work out a flexible budget, with short-term financial goals and long-term 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 spending as you individually see fit.
Being open and honest
It’s tempting to omit key information when we’re trying to avoid conflict. But even if a person doesn’t fib 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 financial stress.
Prevent these problems by being honest about financial decisions, even if you know they may upset your partner. As reluctant as you may be to bring these topics up, it can be better in the long run than hiding it from them and committing financial infidelity.
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. And some couples may together decide to never lend money to friends or family under any circumstances.
By setting boundaries and limits, and then 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 benefits of opening a bank account together is that it can provide a clear financial picture. A joint account allows couples to track spending, and it can make sticking to a budget easier, while also helping to foster openness.
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 checking and savings account, as well as two individual accounts with a set amount of money to play with every month.
Having different accounts, including one for their personal use, can give each partner 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 the avalanche method. To do it, you make 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 consolidating debts into a single loan, which could make it easier to manage.
Whatever plan you agree on, working on debt reduction can give you a shared goal to work toward together.
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’s going on in order to achieve financial security.
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 investments.
If you can’t swing monthly meetings, then aim for quarterly or biannual financial sit-downs.
Getting help from an advisor
While spending more money may seem like an added stressor, some couples who pay for a financial coach may find that it helps them save more down the road.
And, it might be easier to talk about an emotionally charged subject like money with an unbiased third party who can help diffuse tension and get you both to 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 Checking and Savings makes it easy to create a joint account that gives you both shared access to your money. Plus, you’ll earn a competitive APY and pay no account fees. That’s something that you can both agree is a good thing!
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