Colette Sexton on why it is important for couples to have honest discussions about their money situation.
Money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world. Forgive me. I recently went to see Mamma Mia 2 and ABBA is a constant soundtrack in my brain at the moment as a result. But despite the lyrical genius of the Swedish foursome, it appears that money is not funny in a rich man’s world, or anyone’s world really.
A few years ago, a PWC Employee Financial Wellness Survey found that financial matters was the top stressor across all generations. Some 42 per cent of millennials, 46 per cent of Gen X, and 28 per cent of baby boomers said finances were their biggest cause of stress. Now imagine the impact that stress has on someone’s personal life, and particularly their relationship. It is not pretty, which is why it is so important to have honest and open dialogue with your significant other about your financial situation.
Couples who regularly talk about money are happier in their relationships, according to the TD Bank Love & Money study from 2015. Of those who said they talk about money at least once a week with their partner, 42 per cent described their relationship as “extremely happy”. Only 27 per cent of those who talked about money less than once a month said their relationships were “extremely happy”. Who among us does not want to be in an “extremely happy” relationship?
Bringing up the money talk can seem really intimidating, but if you are in a serious, committed relationship then it is very important (and, let's be honest here, probably not the most intimate thing you have ever done with your significant other!). The key is to be honest. Start the dialogue by both of you laying out your full financial situations. I’m talking everything - income, spending habits, savings and loans, including everything from student loans and car loans to credit card bills.
Once you both know exactly what the other’s cash flow is like, then discuss your plans. Do you want to buy a house? Do you need a new car? Do you want to invest? Do you want to work part-time so you can study? Talk it all through, and see if your plans are compatible with your partner's.
Then discuss how you are going to manage your money to achieve those plans. Some couples have one joint account which they both get paid into, and they both have access to. Others baulk at that idea, and keep separate accounts and divide up joint bills individually. Others still use a joint account for paying joint bills and for joint savings, but keep their own accounts. Figure out what system would suit your relationship best and implement it straight away.
No-one is saying that financial discussions are easy. It can be awkward, especially if you grew up with parents who never discussed money. But keeping financial secrets to yourself leads to disaster. As the old saying goes, money is a good servant, but a bad master. Don’t let finances control your life or your relationship. It is healthy to understand your partner’s finances and their goals, as well as setting your own priorities as a couple. So it is time to be a grown-up. Sit down tonight with your other half, a pot of tea, a notebook, your bank statements, and have the money talk. Good luck!