It’s that time of year again. Red and pink hearts everywhere. Reservations at the fanciest place in town. Seamless at the ready for when your partner’s attempt at a souffle becomes a fire hazard and you call in the professionals for some romantic pad thai for two. Dinner disasters can be buzzkills, but are usually pretty easily salvaged. Money, however, can really kill the mood.
In 2018 we broke down who should pick up the check on a date, and helped you navigate some tricky financial conversations with your partner. Since then we’ve seen that how you talk about money with your partner (or how you plan to talk about money with a future partner) is a huge deal for most of our clients. So this Valentine’s Day we’re exploring some of the most common squabbles couples have over money, and how to try to avoid them. If you’re wondering how to stop fighting over money, here’s a great place to start: understanding you’re not alone.
Here’s a stat that may or may not surprise you: couples fight more about money than they do about sex.
Almost 70% of respondents to a survey stated that finances cause more tension in their relationship than sex. According to NBC, “Almost one-quarter of survey respondents said they had broken up with a partner over financial concerns, and 58% of respondents claim that they would rather remain single than settle for a financially irresponsible spouse.”
And according to the Independent, tension and worries about money is the top reason for marriages falling apart. Okay, it’s clear, money causes tension, you probably don’t need any more statistics to convince you. But what is it exactly that people are fighting about? And why can’t we avoid these squabbles?
Keeping up with the Joneses mixed with FOMO and served up on Instagram is a recipe for disaster.
Here are a few of the most common situations we see happening over and over and OVER again.
When She Makes More Money than Him
Women are starting to make more than men, and this sometimes comes into conflict with some of the narratives we grew up with. No matter how immune to fairy tales we wish we are, there was some solid conditioning in our childhoods that told us that men are providers. But this narrative is getting thoroughly flipped in the 21st century, and we’re here for it. Hell, our team has plenty of women who know what it means to negotiate and get what’s theirs, but this also sometimes means a negotiation at home.
While some men are just as confused as the women about why this is even an issue, other men don’t seem to be comfortable with women making more than them. And to get SUPER real, some women are uncomfortable with it too. There’s no quick solution to this one, because beliefs about money and who is the “provider” for a family run deep. We suggest attempting to have an open and honest conversation about what is at the root of these beliefs, and in which ways you each provide for each other. We’re not suggesting anyone should have to tiptoe around their SO’s egos, instead, we’re suggesting both partners come to this conversation with empathy for one another, and bring in a pro if necessary. We love to help couples to start thinking and working as a team.
When He Makes More Money Than Her/Him
This isn’t really about gender. Money squabbles transcend relationship type and affect people of all genders (or lack-thereof). When one partner makes more than the other, tensions can arise.
We spoke with a couple who keeps getting into tiffs about how much they’re spending on groceries. Ever since they moved in together he’s super concerned with how much more they seem to be spending on groceries. He keeps getting Mint notifications about “Unusual Spending on Groceries.” This is where an app that tracks your spending can backfire. You might be spending more on groceries than you were previously because you weren’t really buying groceries before! It is measuring change, so check in with your spending goal, sometimes you need to readjust.
When one partner makes more than the other, or when one person in a partnership is just more preoccupied with money than the other, it’s worth having some conversations about what your definition of “fair” is, and how you can possibly expand that notion to help come to a strategy of splitting the bills that feels good for both partners.
It also helps to have your saving and investing goals solved for (and automated) FIRST. If you’ve got your saving automated, who cares if your SO is spending more than what’s “fair” on groceries. If you guys can afford it, spend it–guilt-free. This is an essential part of knowing if you’re living a life you can afford–something we talk a lot about at Stash Wealth. It’s imperative to define your financial goals together. Once you create an automated savings plan for those priorities whatever’s left over is yours to spend. On groceries, on travel, on whatever you want!
When They Just Won’t Talk About Money
Sometimes one half (or even both halves) of a partnership just don’t want to talk about money. This may seem fine at first, but when you start planning for a future you have to get real about finances. There’s just no way to avoid it. It is really important to start talking about money early in a relationship. Refinery29 has a list of 31 Questions You Should Ask Your Significant Other, co-written by Stash Wealth’s founder Priya Malani. They’re all great questions, but a few of them really get to the heart of finance squabbles.
WHAT IS YOUR SAVINGS PHILOSOPHY?
- How will we split the rent? How will we split the monthly bills? 50/50 or based on our incomes?
- Do you have student loan debt? What are you doing about it?
These questions can help to get to the heart of your money priorities and where they do and don’t match up. And they come from some #experts, which can help you bring them up with your partner if you’re worried about raising the topic in the first place. Just use the line “Priya says we should talk about this.”
When They Think They’re a Money Expert
Any financial advisor can tell you that the ultimate nightmare client is one who thinks they know a lot about money. And this happens in relationships all the damn time. One partner thinks they really have their financial sh*t together, and the other just isn’t quite sure, has some doubts, and wants to consult a professional. We joke that 80% of what we do is therapy. Jokes aside, we do love to help clear up misconceptions and be the objective financial advisor who can help get you both on the same page.
When Their Dreams are Out of Control
This is perhaps the trickiest situation to navigate. Some people are just wildly out of touch about what they can afford. We often see this when it comes to buying a home, car, or other big-ticket item. People get their heart set on the perfect car, and they can sort-of afford it, except they can’t, not really. And here’s where it gets really tricky because they think they’ve run the numbers and found a way for it to work, and maybe they have, on paper. But in reality, the amount they would have to give up to pay off that car, or house, or vacation, just isn’t realistic and they’re going to be miserable trying to do it.
It’s a huge problem for a couple’s future when they both live in this irrational la-la land and keep buying things they can’t afford. Especially if they keep charging them to a credit card. But this can cause extra tension when one partner is more out of touch than the other. It’s not fun to be practical and bring your partner back to solid ground, aka stomp on their dreams.
This is a situation where it can be really helpful to get clear on why you want certain things. Talk to your partner about what that car, house, or vacation really means to them. Is it something they really want or need? Or is it something they want to be able to show off as a status of wealth and/or achievement? Keeping up with the Joneses mixed with FOMO and served up on Instagram is a recipe for disaster. The more open you can be about the whys of your purchases and aspirations, the healthier your overall conversations about money will be.