Money is the number one cause of friction in relationships according to a SunTrust Bank survey and likely leads to more breakups and divorces than any other cause. The simple act of talking about money and finances seems to be at the very root of the problem. Even though many couples—married or not—share everything from homes to pets, they often keep their finances and financial information separate and closely guarded secrets. A Policygenius survey found that:

·One in five Americans holds onto and manages their money separately from their life partner.

·Nearly one in four doesn’t share checking, savings, credit card, and other financial accounts.

·And about one in three doesn’t even know how much money their partner earns.

Partly this financial separation is the result of shifts in the culture. Couples are waiting until later in life to get married and many are living together and skipping marriage entirely. People “sometimes move in together without considering how finances are going to work,” Catalina Franco-Cicero, a certified financial planner told According to the website “54.3% of couples who live together without kids manage money separately, while only 17.4% of couples who are married without kids do”. Also the growth in two income households has led to a greater degree of financial separateness.

One major contributing factor to a lack of communication about money is that generally men and women look at finances, spending, and saving differently, according several research studies. Motivational speaker and budgeting expert, Dave Ramsey, explains that men use money as a scorecard, whereas women see it as a security issue. As a result, men are more likely to take risks with money and women may experience a higher level of fear when money problems arise. This can lead to “financial infidelity”. According to a poll, “1 in 5 Americans have spent $500 or more without their partner’s knowledge, and 6% have maintained hidden bank accounts or used secret credit cards.”

The obvious solution to avoiding misunderstandings, friction, and arguments about money is to have a candid and open dialogue with your significant other about your finances. Here are four tips to get the conversation ball rolling:

Tip#1: Agree to disagree on some issues, but search for common goals. Understanding that you and your spouse or partner may view money differently is a good first step. Then look for shared goals. They may be major life goals like starting a family or smaller more immediate goals like planning for a hiking vacation in Yosemite. The important thing is that you start functioning as a unit rather than separate entities and that you think positively about money by exploring where it can get you.

Tip #2: Know the skeletons in the closet. You can’t fix what you don’t know. It is crucial for your financial health to understand what types of debt are owed, and what balances remain. Keeping debt a secret can come as an unpleasant surprise when you two decide to move toward a financial goal you outlined in Tip #1.

Tip #3: Budgeting is boring but essential. “When it all boils down to it, a budget is basically just a plan for your money,” advises Dave Ramsey. “Budgeting means you’re spending with purpose before the month begins.” Although you don’t have to manage every penny you should have a plan for regular monthly expenses and major purchases and obligations. Couples need to have an open conversation about how to split the costs of maintaining a household. The goal should be to arrive at a fair division, which does not necessarily mean splitting costs equally. A more equitable approach is to divvy up household bills proportionately to what each person makes.

Tip #4: Talk about money regularly. So there are no surprises that can torpedo a relationship, you should sit down to talk about your finances on a consistent and reoccurring basis—say once a month or even better every two weeks. This will take a lot of unnecessary stress out of your relationship.



Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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