In the dating game, the closest you usually come to discussing finances is working out who will pick up the bill for the date. Fair enough – it’s not exactly a sexy topic!
But there’s a case to be made for adding finances to the list of tricky subjects to navigate with a prospective partner â€“ because it can have a major bearing on the success of a relationship.
Not only is financial stress now considered the number one cause of relationship breakdown, but a study of 12 million Americans found the higher the credit scores of each party at the start of a relationship, the less likely the couple would break up. That’s not to say the richer you are the less likely you are to break up -the study controlled for other factors like income and education. It also found the closer your credit score is to your partner’s, the higher the likelihood of you staying together.
I’m not suggesting you rush off and get a credit check on your future spouse, (although prospective employers often do!), but money can be an emotional topic so it’s worth making sure you’re on the same page.
Money Week this year focuses on the importance of talking about money. It’s not something Kiwis are good at, in fact research released by the Commission for Financial Capability shows more than half of couples don’t even talk about how much they earn!
They’re also much more likely to talk about regular bills than they are about their debts, and even among couples approaching retirement, just over half of them actually talk about it.
I get it – it can be a touchy subject sometimes – but avoiding it altogether doesn’t avoid the problems caused by not being on the same page about money. That’s just sticking your head in the sand!
I’ve written before about money personalities and natural tendencies, and I often joke the rebel/spender/dreamer combo should be avoided! But having different money personalities doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.
If you’re a spender and your partner imposes their savings regime on you, it’s likely to feel like a financial strait jacket. Spenders often benefit from being told what they need to hear from an impartial third party – just like you don’t want to hear weight loss tips from your partner even though they’re thin. A spender is not a lost cause – they just need a compelling reason not to spend and they need to see results.
I’ve seen some couples where one earned all the money and the other spent it all â€“ and they were happy with that. The problems arise when you’re not happy with what you’re achieving. Making sure you’re working towards the same goals is crucial – and that requires talking about your money goals.
Couples often try to reduce financial conflict by having one person manage the the mortgage and the household books, but often that means one party is checked out, or not spending in line with the family’s means, which will eventually cause conflict anyway!
Whether you’ve been together a short time or a long time, it’s worth scheduling a regular financial date night. Pay the bills and discuss your attitudes to money, whether you are happy with your career progression, financial progress, what you fear and what you want.
Talking about money doesn’t have to be domestic drudgery, it should start with dreaming about what you want your lives to be like – before you plan how you will achieve it together.
If you want to remove the emotion from it, get an independent third party involved. Our financial advisors can call it as they see it, and one of the top things our clients say is “I can’t believe you got away with saying that to my spouse!”
To book an initial 90 minute consultation with one of enable.me’s financial coaches, click here
Hannah McQueen is a Financial Advisor, Chartered Accountant Fellow, personal finance author and the founder of enable.me.