The Love & Money Balancing Act: Love is in the air, and Cupid wants you to talk about money!
It’s February and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Just how much do we Americans spend to express our love? According to consumer research firm BIGInsight, Americans over age 18 will spend almost $19 billion on Valentine’s Day this year – the average adult will spend over $130 on candy, cards, and gifts! And although married couples are more likely than unmarried couples to go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, the longer a couple has been married, the less likely they are to celebrate at all.
Study after study reveals that money is the most common cause of conflict among couples. And while many marriages end for financial reasons, I am convinced that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Despite the growing emphasis on financial literacy, money remains a taboo subject. We have been taught that it isn’t polite to talk about how much we spent on something or how much we earn. In a recent survey by credit reporting bureau TransUnion, 25% of respondents said they don’t talk about finances with their significant others. Almost half didn’t know their partner’s credit score.
Money can stir up intense feelings, especially among those closest to us. In fact, money has to be one of the least romantic subjects. But if you choose to make money conversations part of your romance, you can resolve important issues that have the potential to harm your relationship down the road.
Have regular discussions about money.
It is crucial for you to regularly set aside time to review your financial picture, from soup to nuts.
What short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals are you working towards? Are you saving enough to achieve them? If not, where can you cut back spending? Are you taking too much (or enough) risk in your portfolio? Talk about bills, budgeting and investing.
The more you discuss, the more the two of you will discover about where you are and what you would like to accomplish together when it comes to your money.
Whatever you do, do not judge.
The fear of being judged is what keeps most couples from talking about money. We don’t want our partners to know about our spending failures, lack of money savings habits, or habit of charging things on credit cards. Whatever you do, don’t judge your partner for a past mistake. Instead, talk about what your challenges are and make a plan to move forward together.
Granted, money isn’t necessarily fun to talk about, but it does touch so many aspects of our lives. These may not be among your more enjoyable conversations but they still have to happen.
Getting married? How will you and your future spouse handle money together?
Splurges that feel romantic when you’re dating can cause problems later on. This may sound harsh, but if your potential partner is careless with credit and spending, it will be tough to change them. No matter what stage of life you’re in when you get married, it’s better to address finances before you walk down the aisle. You may have some tough conversations, but it’s better to have them now than to go forward and be frustrated by what could have been learned before.
Some discussion topics for couples considering marriage:
- Your respective assets and debts
- Personal spending habits and attitudes towards debt (including wedding expenses)
- How you will share or divide living expenses
- Whether to combine or keep separate accounts, or some combination of the two
- Big picture financial goals, such as buying a house, retirement goals, and paying for college
- The possibility of a pre-nuptial agreement
Baring your financial soul can make you feel exposed at first, but it’s important that you identify and discuss your respective financial styles. You need to figure out how to make your differences work for your common benefit, like everything else in your relationship.
Having clear expectations and communicating personal priorities will help you compromise and reach decisions.
Think in terms of understanding your Valentine, not changing him or her. Couples who balance love and money will prosper!
Meet the Author
Tom Coulter, CPA
Tom is the President and a founder of Meridian Trust. Tom graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in accounting with honors, in 1978. Tom previously worked for the international accounting firm, Deloitte. He later joined the financial medical advising firm, FIS Associates, before founding Meridian Trust in 1997. Tom has worked extensively in retirement planning, taxation, estate and financial planning and investment management. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA). Tom is also credentialed as a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) by the AICPA.