Written by Samantha Carvalho
When we enter into a meaningful relationship, one of the many things that gets exposed are our money habits. For some, this may be difficult as you struggle with managing your money. Although, this has always been your secret and your struggle. Yet now, it becomes your partner’s struggle as well and, therefore, needs to be brought out into the open.
Everybody knows that the topic of finances is a touchy subject in most relationships. But why? According to a 2017 poll taken by Money Mag, 70% of married couples argue about money more than any other subject.
But, couple therapists and clinical psychologists Janine and Robert Boulle say their clients don’t come in because of money issues per se, but rather because of communication struggles.
‘Often, couples will come to us because they notice something in their relationship is amiss. They come to us for clarity. We help them communicate better to find this clarity. And, often, money is an underlying complication without the couple even knowing it is,’ says Janine.
‘Couples tend to avoid difficult topics such as finance, leading them to therapy because the unspoken issues create a divide between them, undermining their relationship,’ confirms Robert.
According to Robert and Janine, one of the main reasons couples fight about money is due to the different ways in which men and women view. And, secondly, the gender pay gap that has existed throughout history.
The fact is that few people see money simply as money. A healthy bank account can mean security, power, independence (and, conversely, dependence), control, confidence, happiness, love, balance and freedom. The complexity comes in when two people, who have different financial outlooks and who value money differently, come together in a serious relationship. Without hashing out those differences and chatting about values, money becomes another partner in a relationship, and often one that is ignored.
But talking about money when first entering into a relationship is not always easy. Yet, it is something that needs to be done due to the likely differing financial views each partner possesses. Women associate money with security, love and happiness, whereas men traditionally associate it with power, control and success – something they always had in the past that women did not.
‘I have noticed that when the woman in a relationship earns more than the man, it brings in the male ego, making the topic even more sensitive,’ says Robert.
Janine makes a good point, adding to Robert’s comment: ‘Women are ambivalent. Yes, she wants to earn the same as or more than her partner and be financially independent with a high-powered job. But then, in the back of her mind, she wouldn’t mind if her partner made more either because she wants to be looked after by him and be the chief at home,’ says Janine.
Some Financial Advice
Here are six points to keep in mind when trying to navigate finances in a relationship.
1. Separate Accounts Versus One Joint Account
This is probably one of the first and biggest things couples need to decide on when it comes to finances. SmartMoney magazine’s survey found that the majority of couples (64%) put all of their money in joint accounts, while 14% kept everything in separate accounts, and 18% had both.
This does, however, come down to you as a couple and what works for you! Perhaps try both and see what fits better. Bare in mind that having your own money to spend as you like could lessen arguments about money. Also, choosing not to have a joint account doesn’t discredit the unity of your marriage / partnership in any way!
2. Maintain a Budget
“Studies show that men and women spend the same, they just spend differently,” she says. Women usually take care of most of the family’s daily expenses: the groceries, the bills, clothes for the family — while men spend on large purchases like plasma TVs, cars or computers. “If you counted up your money, you would be spending about the same,” Ruth Hayden, author of “For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples”, says. “But because you spend so differently, the perception is different.”
Keeping track of your money doesn’t mean looking over each other’s shoulders every time one of you spends, but rather knowing where your money is going so that you are able to set realistic financial goals.
3. Communicate About Financial Priorities
In the same way that men and women have been found to view finances differently, you may both have separate financial goals. For example, one of you could value spending money on holidays and / or buying a house, while the other wishes to invest the money or keep it aside for emergencies. As such, it is critical to communicate these perspectives and come into agreement on what you, as a couple, are going to prioritise when it comes to your finances. Seeking help from a financial planner could help with this!
4. Talk About Money Often
Studies show that 36% of men and 40% of women confess that they had at one time or another lied to their spouse about the price of something they bought.
While talking about money may not be your favourite couple activity, it remains important to avoid big blow outs later on. Again, seek the help of a financial counselor of planner if need be.
5. It’s Always a Good Idea to Save
Even though you may feel as though you are unable to stretch your budget to save, you need to make it a priority. Decide to save at least 10% of your income. This can be for emergencies, investments, or retirement. Anything could happen, and it’s best to be prepared for it!
6. How to Handle Debt
Never view your partner’s debt as ‘their’ problem. If you’re in a committed relationship, it’s both of your problem and, as such, needs to be handled together. Legally, if you’re married, your spouse’s debt can affect your credit score. So, it’s imperative to come up with a plan, together, on how to eradicate the debt as quickly as possible.