Money problems and infidelity are two of the quickest ways to bring down a relationship, but when combined, they can be downright lethal. Unfortunately, “financial infidelity” is a fairly common occurrence in American relationships.
According to a Creditcards.com poll, 32% of Americans in a serious relationship have cheated financially. That included spending more than their partners would be okay with, or having debt, credit cards or savings accounts that their partner knew nothing about.
The poll also found that financial infidelity was more common among younger generations, which could be due to more dual-income households and partners marrying later in life.
There is a flip side to this secret-keeping, which is that many people reported wanting to keep some financial independence in their lives. Can that work in a long-term relationship? Here are my thoughts:
Yours, Mine and Ours: Making it work
Decades ago, it was common to have one-income households. It was assumed that the breadwinner would support their family, and there was less gray area in managing household finances.
Today, couples are much more likely to enter a relationship with their own income, debts and spending habits. That means there’s a lot more room for secrets and misunderstandings. It’s understandable why people would be hesitant to combine all of their finances in a relationship; after having financial independence, it can be difficult, or even scary, to give that up.
One way you make it easier to combine finances is to really try to understand your money personality, as well as your partner’s. This is a quiz that can shine more light on each type of money personality, and the strengths and challenges that come with them.
The good news is that it’s not all or nothing. Thanks to online banking and the myriad of financial tools out there, it’s totally possible to have your own accounts, plus joined accounts, if that’s what you want. What there’s not room for are secrets.
Secret Keeping and Financial Independence in Couples’ Finances
There are different degrees of secret-keeping in finances. Maybe you’re not talking to your partner about money because you want to protect them, or you’re ashamed of how you manage money, or you feel like you need to keep some secret money in case the relationship goes south. All of those things can signal deeper problems in the relationship, and are not necessarily healthy for a long-term relationship.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have financial autonomy, or protect yourself in the event of a breakup. For example, if you want the freedom to splurge on things you enjoy, set up an amount within your budget that allows both of you to continue buying those things. Budgets don’t have to feel limiting; they can instead give you the opportunity to spend money on fun things without the guilt that sometimes comes along with that.
The key is that you are honest and open with your partner about wanting to have money set aside for those things, and working together to make your financial goals a reality.
Commit to Talking About Your Money
Money is hard for so many of us to talk about. It’s so much more than just numbers, and it can be bogged down with shame, fear and frustration. But if you’re going to have a successful relationship, you have to be upfront about your money, debts and spending habits. It’s the only way to move forward together.
Here are some ways you can have better money conversations with your partner:
- Make a plan for when you’re going to talk about money. Avoid springing it on your partner when you’re angry about something. Agree on a time to talk about it, preferably when you’re not exhausted or starving. (Try planning a money date to make it a little more fun.)
- Create a judgment-free zone. Mutually agree beforehand to try not to blame or ridicule each other, or your money management. If you want to figure out how to move forward together, you have to work as a team.
- Set up systems and checkpoints to track your progress. It’s not enough to talk about money once, and then move on. Make a point to regularly check-in and make sure you’re still on the same page.
- Have one hub to track all of your spending. If you prefer to keep separate accounts, systems like You Need a Budget or Mint can help you see both of your accounts in one place.
- If you find that you frequently disagree on how to spend or save money, consider working with a financial planner. Sometimes a neutral third party can help you see the full picture better than you or your partner can.
About Your Richest Life
At Your Richest Life, Katie Brewer, CFP®, believes you too should have access to financial resources and fee-only financial planning. For more information on the services offered, contact Katie today.
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