Did you know that financial problems are America’s third leading cause of divorce and the number one thing couples argue about? Money is one of the most important topics couples discuss when dating, considering marriage, and, finally, doing life together.
Many of these conversations can quickly take a turn for the worse. Finances are a touchy subject, and even though you probably love your partner to pieces, routinely arguing about money can leave your relationship in tatters. Ditch the money dramatics by learning the five biggest mistakes couples make when talking about money. Once you’re aware of these money conversation missteps, you can actively avoid them.
Hopefully, your discussions will be a lot more productive and meaningful!
The Five Biggest Mistakes Couples Make with Money Conversations
1. Bad Timing. Unfortunately, financial topics can often be weaponized in a conversation between partners. It can be tempting to bring up how much money your significant other is spending on weekend golf games when you’re having a heated conversation about something other than finances. However, lecturing them about spending during this scenario probably won’t be very productive. Similarly, if your partner is stressed about a huge work project, struggling to get the kids ready for bed, or rushing around in the morning to get out the door on time, they likely won’t be receptive to financial concerns or new ideas.
The trick is finding the best timing. Bad timing can ruin a conversation, whether about bills, spending habits, or investment options. Wait until you both are calm, ready, and able to listen and have had an opportunity to research if necessary. If you want to discuss a retirement plan as a couple, take some time ahead of your conversation to think about your opinions and preferences, check out the various options, and come to the conversation prepared. Pick a time when you don’t have deadlines or obligations staring you down. This might be on a weekend or after the kids have been put to bed. You and your significant other will be the most receptive and have the most productive conversations when you’re both relaxed and open-minded.
2. Not Listening. Timing goes hand in hand with good listening. If you’re both busy, stressed, or angry, there’s probably no point in having a conversation. Being a poor listener can happen for a few reasons. If you’re constantly formulating your response, usually because you’re feeling argumentative or defensive, chances are you’re not listening or digesting what the other person is saying. Alternatively, you might be distracted and only listening at a surface level. Neither is conducive to discussing important topics, especially finances. Strive to be present and open-minded during money talks. Limit distractions like phones, make eye contact and ask clarifying questions. Repeating back what the other person said can help clear up confusion and cement the ideas in your mind. Your partner will also appreciate the respect you show them by paying attention.
3. Sidestepping the Issues. Most financial arguments stem from spending habits. Focusing on what your partner buys, how much they spend, and their other financial habits is a common but challenging topic. Additionally, it isn’t the only conversation you should be having about money. Financial goals and earnings are essential too. The level of comfort you have talking to your partner about money usually correlates to the length of your relationship. As you get to know each other, your financial habits and goals become more apparent. However, some couples tend to skirt the uncomfortable topics or only focus only on one thing. This leaves many items left unspoken, which can contribute to disappointments and disagreements. It’s essential to lay all your expectations, dreams, desires, and worries out on the table. Failing to have deep conversations, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, can do a lot of damage to your relationship. Most arguments concerning money aren’t about what the other person said – instead, they’re over what wasn’t said.
4. Not Keeping an Open Mind. We all want a stable financial future, but how we get there and what that future actually looks like can be different for everyone. Some of us love to save, save, save. Others prefer to make high-risk investments that can come with huge payoffs. If a couple is composed of one of each type, it’s easy to see why financial disagreements might ensue. However, varying opinions on money matters isn’t a reason to break it off; you’ll just have to put more effort into keeping an open mind. This means refraining from judging or lecturing, having empathy, and compromising now and again. Be honest and open with your opinions, but don’t forget to listen with compassion and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Occasionally, you’ll just have to agree to disagree. Still, there aren’t too many opportunities for this regarding money. You’ll need to compromise more often than not. Decide what arrangement you can live with and what your non-negotiables are. Having meaningful money conversations early on in your relationship can save you from unpleasant surprises in the future and better align your financial goals and budget.
5. Keeping Money Matters Hidden. There’s probably a fair share of us who grab that Amazon package from the porch before our partner can see it or maybe fib a little when divulging how much a target run actually costs. However, when these secrets or lies become habits, your financial foundation as a couple can crumble. According to one survey, 22% of Americans lie to their partner about money, everything from how much they earn to spending habits. Unfortunately, this only hurts your relationship – and your financial health too. Be upfront and honest with your partner and yourself to avoid arguments. This can include not lying about your credit score, fessing up about how much something costs, and being forthcoming with how much you earn. You risk more than just hurt feelings when you lie about money; you might be putting your and your partner’s financial future at risk.
Pro-Tips for Having the Money Talk with Your Partner
- Share financials openly and early on. Talking about money, especially how much someone makes, is usually taboo. But it shouldn’t be this way! Having open conversations about budgets, income, debt, and goals before marriage can help set your relationship up for success! This may look like creating a budget together, or it may mean getting a prenup. However, this applies to your relationship, mutual, honest, and open communication is essential from day one (and beyond).
- Empower each other. Are you guilty of taking care of all the finances? Or, do you let your partner handle paying the bills because you’re “not good with numbers”? Don’t let one person be responsible for all the financial responsibilities and decisions. Share the financial workings of your family as much as possible. It doesn’t mean your partner has to stop paying the bills so you can have a turn, but both of you should be knowledgeable about how much money is coming in and going out and where it is being spent. Managing your money is a must to achieve any goal in life. Having both people on board will help you achieve your dreams sooner.
In order to have financial harmony, you must have the money talk with your partner. It doesn’t matter if you’re dating, engaged, or married. Partners shouldn’t avoid mutual conversations about spending, saving, and financial dreams. However, make sure you’re having the right conversations. Avoiding the five most common money discussion mistakes will make your discussions more productive and less tense.
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