Did you know that money is one of the top areas of conflict for couples? Maybe not, but when you think about money issues couples experience doesn't it seem like the problem is simply about savings vs. spending?
Well, it's not always easy when we talk about money with our loved ones. In fact, there are 10 top areas where couples fight over money.
Do any of these money fights happen in your relationship?
- Debt: If a couple incurs debt from college, house, car and general living expenses it may seem that one partner is comfortable living in debt and one partner is very uncomfortable. These opposite feelings can create tension and conflict.
- Spending habits: Shopping habits can be a huge area of conflict for couples, as one may have habits of how and when they shop to conserve money and play it safe with spending. The other partner may never look at price and shop whenever the impulse feels right and often purchase items that may seem unnecessary.
- Operating to a budget: Both partners may be more aligned with how they spend and save, however, one of the partners feels the word budget is too limiting and restrictive. Just the idea of a budget may cause conflict.
- Financial/budget acumen: One partner may be more skilled at understanding finances and even the value of adhering to a budget, while the other struggles to understand the importance. The skill or knowledge gap can create lots of conflict.
- Unequal starting points: One partner may have brought much more money, and even real property to the relationship. While, the other may have been in debt and/or very little in the bank. In the beginning of a relationship this may not feel like an issue, but eventually it may become a very large issue if not agreed upon early on.
- Unequal earning potential: One partner earns more than the other, or one partner isn’t in the workforce at all. The partner that is financially dependent on the other can become resentful, as can the partner that is supporting the dependent partner if not agreed upon.
- Investment decisions, taking risks: One partner may enjoy taking risks with their money and even make investments that are very risky. The other partner may only believe in very safe investment opportunities, and/or putting the money only in the bank. These decisions can really create large areas of disagreement for the relationship future.
- Financial hard times, struggles: One partner may suffer a job loss, or they may suffer unexpected large expenses with medical bills. Each partner can attach different feelings when going through hard times and those feelings can greatly impact the relationship.
- Inheritances or other unexpected windfalls: When one partner experiences a large inheritance or windfall from a stock option, how each partner feels about that can vary. Does each partner feel equally entitled or in control of what to do with the inheritance or windfall? Or, is there a perceived ownership issue?
- Saving for the future: When one partner is really focused on the future and one lives in the present a little too much, this can create a big problem around financial issues such as planning for retirement or saving for the kids' college.
So, now that we can see the variety of ways in which couples fight over money, the question becomes what exactly do we do about managing conflict and money in our relationships?
In the book Couples Money: What Every Couple Should Know about Money and Relationships, the authors Marlow & Chris Felton share the specific characteristics of financially harmonious couples. Marlow and Chris break down the methodology into "baskets" to explain different categories of family money and provide concrete exercises to ensure you take action as a couple with all your financial goals—small and big.
Using a book can be a beneficial tool for some couples, but a book may not work well for all couples. If you and your partner struggle around creating a budget, paying your bills, planning for your future, getting out of debt and more then you may need a little help. It's OK to get help and dig a little deeper to discover root causes around money conflicts, as there can be emotional triggers around money for one or both of you in the relationship.