Money problems can be a major source of relationship breakdown and most couples do fight about money from time to time. It becomes a serious problem when money is an ongoing, dominant source of conflict.
It may be as simple as one partner feeling that their financial dreams (for example, owning their own family home) are not a priority for their partner.
Or maybe one partner seems to be a virtual black hole where money is concerned, resulting in constant debt and a feeling that you can never get ahead.
Whilst you may love someone dearly and consider your relationship rock solid, if you do not share the same outlook or ideals when it comes to finances, these differences and unresolved feelings of anger and resentment can start to chip away at your relationship.
In fact, money problems are rated as a major cause of relationship breakdown and divorce.
Do you have the same approach to money?
Are you financially compatibility with your partner? Is your partner a spender while you are a saver or vice versa? Or are you both similar?
Once a relationship starts getting serious, it is a good idea to chat about important monetary goals that you envision sharing with your partner, such as buying a family home together. These goals should be acknowledged and, if appropriate, plans put into place to achieve them.
If you are about to rent or buy a home together, enter into a de facto relationship, or get married, it becomes even more important to openly and honestly discuss how this arrangement will work financially.
The day to day issues associated with running a home together needs to be assessed so that neither partner becomes overburdened. How do you agree that groceries, rent, utilities and other living costs will be paid, as well as your wider goals and plans for the future (saving for a home deposit, kids university fund, overseas trip etc).
Tips to open communication channels about money
The greatest skill in any relationship is open and honest communication. If you are married or de facto then it is important to remember you are both on the same team whenever discussions about money gets heated or emotional.
Implementing a time out system can be helpful so you can stop the conversation if it gets out of hand, and agree to resume once things have calmed down.
This article covers the 10 Commandments of Clean Communication.
Write down your goals and dreams
Do they coincide?
What happens if they don’t?
Can you put plans in place so that both parties feel like they are being heard? eg. Maybe the wife dreams of going on a cruise so she can relax and forget about housework whilst the husband dreams of exploring the road lesser travelled on his motorbike – how do they implement a solution so that both parties are happy.
Put a budget in place
Discuss what needs to be paid and where the money comes from. It doesn’t matter whether you put it down on paper or use software or apps. With modern gadgets there is no longer an excuse for not knowing where your money is going.
Implement joint and single bank accounts.
Some couples prefer to keep finances quite separate and others share everything. I knew a de facto couple who split everything down the middle, to the extreme that if they went out for coffee they would tally up what they had consumed and pay that. Now for me, that’s a little odd but it worked for them.
Everyone likes to feel as if they have some money of their own to spend and using a system where you have your own bank account let’s you express your own spending personality without impacting the partner too much. This usually works better when all the joint expenses have been dealt with first.
Seek help if you can’t discuss money without arguing
Beliefs about money can trigger survival issues and make people highly emotional. Consider seeing a counsellor and / or a Financial Planner if you find that you can no longer speak to your partner about money calmly.
An impartial third party can help you see a new perspective and hopefully start you talking nicely to each other again.
If you think you can’t afford to go to counseling, think about the cost of not going in terms of further damage to the relationship or the costs associated with the relationship ending.
A financial agreement is like a financial plan for your relationship. It was introduced by the Family Law Act so that couples could determine how to divide their financial assets in the event of a relationship break down.
This can be especially pertinent for older couples marrying or entering a de facto relationship after a failed long term relationship. Once bitten, twice shy so to speak. It provides added security about personal wealth within a relationship and certainly opens a dialogue about what happens with money in the relationship.