When it comes to relationships, money can be a problem. In fact, when couples reach out to me to help with their finances, the number one catalyst for them to call me is because they need to fix relationship money problems, to reach their goals. But, that’s not what they say when we schedule the first appointment. Instead, they tell me the goals they need help with, planning for retirement, signing up for a 401k or saving for their kid’s college education.
That’s because most people don’t just blurt out they’re having relationship problems due to money. It’s not because they’re trying to mislead me or keep it from me. It can be because when you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it’s hard to see the root of the problem. Or, because you don’t feel like throwing your loved one under the bus by saying they spend money like it’s on fire, to a total stranger. Whatever the problem may be, it makes it difficult to plan and reach goals like saving for retirement when you’re both disagreeing about money.
Through my experience, I have found this five things can help reduce or fix relationship money problems.
Know what you’re getting into
Once you’ve decided to marry or seriously commit to someone, you’re most likely going to share money with them. At that point, it’s time to share credit reports. Each person should know what they’re getting into financially. Not only will you have a clear picture of the other’s financial situation, but it will also be a money conversation starter. Hopefully, neither have any serious money problems but if so, this is an opportunity to discuss how to solve the problem.
Have a Family Money Plan
When you’re in a relationship, the easiest way to avoid money problems is to have a plan for your finances—it keeps you on the same page. It doesn’t necessarily have to be typed out and bound (unless you want that), having discussions will do. To create a plan, agree on questions like how do we want to save, what will are spending be like, who’ll pay bills? Will we have kids, will one of us stay home and for how long? Private school? Loaning family money? What kind of vacations do you want? These and more are all topics to help you both understand your wants and needs and agree on how you’ll spend your money. It will help avoid surprises and problems later.
Whether you have tons of money or not, most people don’t want to chat about money stuff like bills and budgets. Nor do they want to call their spouse every time they want to buy a coffee or a pack of gum. Agree on a spending limit of $50, $100, $500, or the amount that whatever works for you. If you’re going to spend more than the agreed upon magic number, then you need to make a phone call to discuss with your spouse. This way you don’t have to talk every time you want to buy something. It’s good to give each other a heads up on potential money issues. If you spend more than you planned at the grocery store, let the other know. That way, they’ll don’t go out to lunch with coworkers only to have their debit card declined in front of their boss.
Keeping secrets about money is devastating to a relationship, it breaks the foundation of it, trust. And once you lose it, it’s hard to get back. The moment you join your finances with another person, you’re in it. Now you’re answering to someone other than yourself about your money because now it’s our money. Hiding money in a separate account or not mentioning the extra money you’ve been spending behind the others back isn’t good. Be honest and transparent about your family finances, it will avoid breaking trust or help you earn it back.
It’s important to stay current and connected when it comes to your joint finances. Every few months, touch base on your money plans to make sure things are still agreed upon and work for your relationship. Maybe you’ve paid down debt and want to take more vacations, or you have new savings goals. Discuss your finances to make adjustments to your plan. Financial situations change and you want to be able to adapt to them as needed.