Whether recently paired or married for decades, more than one-third of U.S. couples report finances as the leading cause of stress in their relationship, according to the American Psychological Association. Differing beliefs and money-management styles are often to blame for the conflict, but so is lack of communication. Consider these tips for a healthy financial relationship.
1. Start at the beginning.
It's nearly impossible to move forward financially as a couple if you don't know where you're starting. Discuss debts and expenses, both individual and joined, and how you've been handling payments. Then ask yourselves: What's working? What's not working?
2. Set clear goals.
Once they've established their current financial standing, couples should move their focus toward the future. What financial goals are you working toward? Do you want to pay off debt? Save for a house?
Write those goals down, and then prioritize those goals. Consider speaking with a banker or financial advisor during this process. There are benefits to paying down debt before saving for large purchases, and an expert will be able to advise you on your best course of action.
3. Craft a game plan.
For couples, crafting a game plan is a twofold process that involves creating a budget and determining your approach. With your financial goals in mind, creating a budget will help you decide where your money is/should be going. Determining your approach means deciding what tools you will use to get there, such as a checkbook, debit card, online money-tracking app, etc. This is also a good time to discuss joint and/or personal accounts and how money will be allocated accordingly.
It is essential that couples go through this process together, even if they decide that one person will be in charge of paying bills or monitoring spending. Whether or not a couple decides to use joint or individual accounts, the 'it's my money' mentality is rarely helpful. Financial security comes when couples work together toward common goals, using a carefully crafted game plan that they both commit to following.
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