Let’s face it — money issues can be a real relationship killer. Even relatively minor disagreements over money can get blown out of proportion, and drive a wedge between you and your partner. Follow these simple rules to keep things in harmony.
1. Talk about it
It sounds obvious but many couples simply don’t talk openly with each other about money issues, and make assumptions that can simmer below the surface, causing frustration and conflict in other areas of the relationship.
This makes it vital to allocate specific time to sit down and frankly discuss your finances with your partner to ensure you are on the same page.
2. Set rules around spending
Day-to-day spending decisions can be a major point of contention if you and your partner have different attitudes toward money. While it may not be practical for either of you to radically change ingrained behaviours, you can limit potential conflict by setting some simple rules and expectations around spending.
One idea is to perhaps set a dollar limit on spending decisions that you can make independently. Anything over that limit will then require a joint decision. This provides a degree of independence and prevents you looking over each other’s shoulders about every cent that is spent.
3. Decide on how things are split
Defining what is “mine”, “yours”, and “ours” in a relationship is vital, especially if you come together later in life when you already have some assets. You may have unquestioned trust of each other when it comes to most relationship issues, but it pays to be deliberate about how you bring your finances together and what level of independence or sharing you should commit to.
One example might be to keep certain assets and savings in separate accounts, and use a joint account to take care of regular bills and living expenses. The important thing is to give it deliberate consideration and not just leave things in limbo, waiting for a crisis to expose disagreements.
4. Be careful with joint accounts
A word of warning about putting both your names on any financial arrangements: while it can often be more convenient to do so, there can be hidden risks. A loan in joint names, for example, means you are both responsible for the debt. If you were to split down the track, even if one of you is benefitting more from whatever was purchased by the loan, the other is still equally liable for the debt.
Your credit rating is also worth considering. If you open a joint account or joint loan together, you may end up sharing your spouse’s credit rating, which may not be as good as yours.
5. Divide financial roles but share responsibility
We all have different personalities, and some of us are more interested and adept in handling finances than others, so it stands to reason that each partner in a relationship may not share the same “money-sense”. This will often lead to one partner taking more of a lead in dealing with the finances, but this should not mean that the other partner remains totally passive.
The answer is to make an effort to at least understand how your financial decisions are being made, and know where you stand in terms of net worth, debt, and budgeting. Even if one partner takes the lead day-to-day, it is important that you both assume responsibility for your financial life. If something ever happens to one of you, the other party can take over without too much trauma.
6. Know each other’s “money personality”
If you and your partner generally have different personalities and temperaments, chances are any disagreements over money will be amplified by those differences. The key is to be aware of each other’s money personality. What attitude to money were you taught growing up? Does spending make you feel guilty or satisfied? How sensitive are you to financial risk-taking? Is saving and insuring against disaster important to you?
How each of you answers such questions will reveal a lot about how money issues may affect your relationship.
7. Seek some independent counsel
While most of your financial decisions can be agreed upon between the two of you, it may be beneficial to have an independent, objective voice to guide you on certain major financial decisions. A professional financial planner can help you clarify your thoughts, goals, fears, and ambitions about money as individuals, and as a couple.
This can be vitally important when it comes to big ticket issues such as superannuation, insurance, and investment.
What are your tips for successfully negotiating finances together? Share your thoughts below.