If there’s one topic every couple fights about at one point or another, it’s money.
In fact, research from Relationships Australia found arguments about money are the biggest cause of breakups. Yep, money causes more relationship implosions than even infidelity.
But the dreaded “money conversation” – if done right – could actually be something that brings you and your partner closer and give you the best chance of making it for the long haul.
With that in mind, here are some of most common mistakes couples are making when approaching the topic of money, and how to avoid them.
Keeping expenses and spending habits under wraps
According to 2017 research by Finder, nearly a third of people in relationships spend money they don’t tell their other half about. Furthermore, a third of people will hide their purchases from their loved ones because they feel guilty about it.
Whether you think your spending habits will get you in trouble from your partner, or you simply don’t think it’s a big deal, not discussing your expenses, especially if you have a joint account, can cause turmoil in your relationship.
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It’s common for one person to take the lead in handling the household finances, but this doesn’t necessarily mean both parties agree on the way the money is spent.
Tip: A good idea is for couples to set aside a money date once a month. This will help you air out where you stand financially, as well as bring up any disagreements you may have with the way the household finances have been handled. Setting aside a specific time to be honest with each other will ease the tension and take the stress out of the discussion.
Not having a budget
Having a budget in place is one of the easiest ways to avoid money arguments. Not only does budgeting help you keep track of expenses and put some money away into your savings, but it also takes the stress out of deciding how to spend your personal finances.
Have a conversation about how much you both want to add to a savings account every month, how much goes towards bills and household expenses, and dedicate specific amounts to financial goals or activities you do together such as dinner dates, holidays or saving for a home deposit. You can then agree that the rest of your individual salary can be spent freely.
After all, it’s important to feel a sense of independence with your finances and to not feel constrained by strict budgeting.
Tip: Ditch the spreadsheet and let the technology do the hard work for you. In this era of smart banking applications, you don’t need to be spending time hunched over an Excel spreadsheet – not when an application or smart bank account can do all the work for you. AMP Bett3r Account, for example, automatically moves your funds in to pay, save and spend accounts, taking the hassle out of budgeting manually.
Leaving it too late to have that conversation
Many couples feel apprehensive about discussing their finances while they are still dating. After all, their money is not legally bound in any way, so they feel as if they should wait until marriage to approach the topic.
However, it is important to have an understanding of the type of spender your partner is and align your views before you get married. You might learn their spending habits directly affect the lifestyle you want. Perhaps you have a strong focus on saving for your retirement, but your partner wants to travel for the next few years.
Approaching a finance discussion with your partner doesn’t have to be daunting, and the sooner you do it, the bigger the benefit is for your relationship.
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Tip: Everyone approaches money differently, so talking about it early in the relationship will help put you on the same page as your partner. Are you a saver? Do you live in the moment and only save a small amount? Do you invest? Decide what the best qualities are from one another and bring them together.
The joint bank account dilemma
Often, couples will keep their finances completely separate. But this can lead to difficult conversations to be had over who is paying for what, particularly if one partner earns more than the other. Making things even more complicated is the fact that you might have completely different financial situations. For example, if one person has a high amount of debt, they are going to be less willing to pay for things, prioritising paying off debt instead.
The truth of the matter is, your money situation will directly impact your partner’s and your lifestyle. This can often lead to resentment, where decisions are made based on your own financial situation and not your financial position as a couple. Alternatively, one partner could feel indebted to the other if the partner who earns more ends up spending more.
A joint account may seem like a scary proposition but combining finances is important, as the vast majority of your expenditures will be shared.
Tip: Setting up a joint bank account mainly comes down to personal preference but it does help simplify your combined finances. It’s important to set up ground rules in the first instance – how much will you each be contributing? Will it be 50:50? Will contributions be proportional to your salary? Or will you just lump everything together?
If you’re holding some money back for personal expenses then decide how much those personal pots will be.
Now, by no means do you have to disclose every time you buy lunch at work. Nor should you fill out a signed contract to ensure you and your partner both stay on track with your finances. But, being financially compatible is important in a relationship, as our money goals and habits directly influence the type of lifestyle we lead.
To avoid arguments about finances, and to help your relationship last in the long run, it’s important to bring up the money discussion early on or you may end up paying for it later down the line.
Dianne Charman, of Jade Financial Group, is an Authorised Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd, ABN 89 051 208 327, AFS Licence No. 232706.
Any advice given is general only and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, before acting on any advice, you should consult a financial planner to consider how appropriate the advice is to your objectives, financial situation and needs.