When you discuss finances with your partner, do you feel as though you’re talking from opposite sides of a stadium? If so, you’re far from alone.
Everyone who’s ever squirmed through a money conversation with a loved one knows that differing opinions can be challenging—at best. In fact, according to a nationwide survey conducted by LearnVest and TD Ameritrade, money is one of the top marital stressors.
As sensitive as financial issues can be, they can also build trust. The survey found that at least 60% of married people trust their partners to manage their finances—a number that rises to 70% among couples in their 60s and up.
Financial awareness grows alongside trust, but more dramatically. The survey also showed that just a quarter of couples aged 18-35 has a clear picture of each other’s income and debt, but 60% of Baby Boomers clearly understand their financial footing.
So how can you and your spouse make opposite money perspectives a source of strength rather than friction? For one, communication is crucial. Even when you trust your spouse’s financial management, be sure to have candid, regular discussions about money matters.
To show how it can be done, three couples at different points in their lives divulge how they deal with opposite approaches to money—and how these differences can even bring partners closer.
Colby and Nick Peters, Annapolis, MD
Colby and Nick, both in their early 30s, have been married for three years. Despite Nick’s conservative financial outlook and Colby’s carefree spending, they’ve managed to reach a happy medium. “Our financial personalities have changed to meet in the middle,” Colby says.
Each month, the couple reviews their accounts and upcoming expenses. Nick also checks his bank balances once a week, and he gets anxious if he dips into his savings. “Colby reassures me that everything is fine, and she’s right,” he explains. “Allowing for the occasional splurge isn’t the end of the world.”
Nick cites his first credit card as an indelible lesson: It had a $1,500 limit—a purposefully low amount that helped him avoid overspending. And he has kept that limit ever since. When Colby met Nick, she carried about $10,000 in credit-card debt, but she steadily paid it off. She also adopted a similarly low credit-limit plan, which curbed her impulse spending on clothes and restaurants.
So far, they’ve kept separate accounts—but with a baby on the way, they may combine them. They’re confident that, with open discussion and emotional support, they can weather the larger financial decisions that lie ahead. “I am very honest about my finances, regardless of any embarrassment I might feel, because I value being truthful with Nick,” Colby says.