Money can be a touchy subject, especially in our closest relationships. It’s also inescapable—like it or not, finances are integral to our partnerships, families, and even friendships. So, how can we foster healthy attitudes and productive conversations around this often-sensitive topic?
And what better time to dig into the psychology of relationships and money than the month of Valentine’s Day and love? In February, many couples exchange gifts, splurge on dates or romantic trips, and bask in the joy of romance. But we should also evaluate our financial partnership: Did we maintain open communication and stay aligned on priorities throughout the year? Could we establish new budgeting habits or spending boundaries that foster closeness and stability?
According to a 2021 Harris Poll survey on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), 73% of married or cohabiting Americans say they experience relationship tension due to financial decisions. We all think differently about money, but getting on the same page with your partner is critical to avoiding long-term and sometimes irreconcilable problems.
Five Points of Financial Friction
While some of your feelings about money may be hardwired into your psyche, getting more in sync with your significant other is possible if you know where the friction points are. Here are five financial issues that have the potential to derail even the best match and some ways that working with a financial professional may help.
1. Differences in Financial Goals
Couples often have different financial goals. One partner may want to buy a vacation property, while the other dreams of extensive travel. Figuring out what timeline makes sense and agreeing on a strategy may help you work better as a team and develop a shared vision of your financial future.
2. Limited Communication About Big Money Decisions
When one partner makes all the major financial decisions without input, it can make the other partner feel diminished. Agreeing on financial guardrails that trigger a discussion before purchases over a certain dollar amount can help both parties feel heard.
3. Financial “Infidelity”
Financial infidelity means concealing or being untruthful about money. It includes betrayals of trust, such as hiding accounts or credit cards from your partner. It’s also surprisingly common. In a 2022 National Endowment for Financial Education poll, 39% of respondents said they’d hidden cash, statements, bills, or purchases from a partner, and 21% said they’d lied about finances, debt, or money earned. When asked why they committed financial infidelity, 38% said they believed some aspects of money should be private, 34% feared disapproval from a spouse, and 33% said they were embarrassed or fearful of finances and didn’t want to share.
4. Different Spending Habits
If you and your partner have significantly different spending habits, you know they can lead to fundamental disagreements. While you may never be able to change each other’s mindsets about spending, there could be ways to find a happy medium.
5. Income Differences
In some relationships, one partner may earn more than another, which can cause tension. Money imbalances are not only about who makes more; they can also include differences in spending habits and financial goals. Honesty is the foundation of a healthy partnership. Being transparent can prevent partners from feeling either inadequate or resented.
Financial professionals can play a role as you pursue financial harmony.
You need to put the time in and work on relationships daily. When it comes to the stresses that finances add to the mix, financial professionals can help navigate conflicts. Open communication and teamwork are always crucial to a healthy relationship. As financial professionals, we can strengthen the financial side of your relationship by creating roadmaps that help ease friction.
This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm.