Sharing your life with a partner inevitably means making financial choices together. So, it’s no surprise that money can be a top source of friction for couples.
Research shows one in three married couples report arguing over money at least once a month. And money troubles were even more common among divorced couples, with 44 percent reporting they fought about money at least once a month when they were married.
While some financial disagreements can be expected, it's important to understand where you and your significant other share similar values, like paying for private school for your kids, for example, and where you'll need to compromise, like taking pricey vacations.
And when it comes to compromise, there's good news: Talking about money with your mate (albeit, calmly and respectively) can feel good. In fact, couples in healthy marriages are more than twice as likely to talk about money daily or weekly, compared to those who say their marriage is just okay or on the rocks, one study revealed. Regular money talks signal that you're working as a team and give you a chance to share your dreams for your future together.
So, get ready for a cozy night in because we're setting the stage for "the money talk." Use the following questions and tips to help guide your conversation. And remember: There are no wrong answers.
- How much do you worry about money?
- What’s your biggest money-related concern?
- How comfortable do you feel sharing details about your financial history?
- How do you feel about keeping separate bank accounts?
- What are your thoughts about how we should manage personal finances vs. family finances?
- How often should we check in on our finances?
- Considering what we’re both good at financially, who wants to oversee what?
- How should we split our expenses?
- What would change if one of us made a lot more money than the other?
- How would you like to spend our recreational funds?
- What’s your top financial priority right now?
- What’s your biggest financial goal for the future?
3 tips for a good talk
Talking about money can feel #awkward. Try these strategies to help make a potentially tricky conversation easier.
1. Create a judgement-free zone
Ideally, you both feel safe being open and honest about your finances, but that’s not always the case. One in five people has at least one financial account they hide from their partner—even though 64 percent of those surveyed said lying about money is a dealbreaker, a recent report reveals.
Encourage your partner to share something they may not have revealed, like having a past bankruptcy or low credit score, without fear that you'll hold it against them (or bring it up later). Sharing your own struggles with money invites your partner to open up, too.
Remember: You don’t need to have the same approach to money to make things work; you just need to find solutions that work for both of you.
2. Commit to finding compromise
It may seem like compromise is a moonshot when one of you takes a more relaxed approach to managing money, while the other wants to monitor every dollar. But compromise is possible. You can start by agreeing on how you'll split your expenses and pay off debt. For example, do you want to divvy up your bills proportional to your income because one of you makes significantly more money, or do you want to contribute the same amount? Do you want to focus on paying off high-interest loans quickly or paying off a bill entirely? If you can resolve these practical financial issues, you may find it easier to take on the emotional work required in the next tip.
3. Build your empathy
When you're trying to align your financial priorities, it’s important to start from a place of mutual understanding. One way to do that is by building empathy. Why? Because empathy helps your partner feel understood, validated, and accepted.
As marriage and family therapist, Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., puts it, "Empathy means caring as much about your partner's well-being as you care about your own, and it can make the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one," she writes. Click the link to try some of her exercises to help you and your partner develop greater empathy. Look at these sessions as a chance to bond and learn more about each other.
Improving your financial habits and how you feel about money could also help make you a more understanding partner. That's where Upwise comes in: Our challenges and money mood tool work together to help you check in on your emotions and make financial progress that feels good. That's a win-win for you—and your relationship.