On a personal level, we’re not overly invested in how someone spends their money. Unless, of course, they’re our spouse.
When “my money” morphs into “our money,” it can become fraught with judgment and stress. Therefore, it isn’t so surprising that a 2010 survey by CESI Debt Solutions found that 80% of married people hide purchases from their husbands and wives (it appears that only heterosexual couples were surveyed) to avoid conflict and criticism.
It’s Not Price, It’s Values
Amidst the advice, both good (“Will neglecting to disclose this purchase damage your partner’s trust in you?”) and somewhat gray (“Not telling is fine, as long as you don’t start deceiving”), one point in particular caught our attention: According to one expert,when couples argue over spending, it’s not about the actual prices—it’s about a clash of values.
A Money Disagreement Is Major
Give that a moment of thought. When you judge someone for his purchases, are you really so upset that he (or she) spent $60? Chances are, it’s more that he spent $60 in a way you don’t support. Money is only as good as its use, whether as a cushion to maintain financial independence, the down payment on a house, or a means to buy spectacular holiday gifts for your coworkers. By conventional wisdom, if you and your partner don’t agree where it is most valuable, you’re heading into treacherous waters—but then again, conventional wisdom isn't always right.
Sharing Is Caring—And Protecting
We promote transparency and information about money above all, and this seems like the perfect case to further that message. Whether you have terrible credit, a wildly clichéd addiction to shoes, or a bias against renting a home, you should be honest with your partner about your finances—and he or she should return the favor. Sure, there are couples out there who roll merrily along without a financial conversation (do you actually know any?), but we worry for their future. Make sure that you and your partner have discussed your financial situation and are aware of each other’s values when it comes to money. And before sharing your values, ask yourself: What are they?