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Communicating With Your Spouse About Money

They say you should never discuss religion or politics at a dinner party, but money talk seems to cause even more discomfort among strangers and friends, alike. According to a SunTrust Bank survey, finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship. Let’s look at three reasons why finances can cause so much friction and how to address them through healthy communication.

1. Differing Outlooks On Money

One of the big reasons is that multiple studies show that men and women view saving and finances differently. Men are more likely to take risks with money than women. Motivational speaker and budgeting expert, Dave Ramsey, explains that men use money as a scorecard, whereas women see it as a security issue. As a result, women may experience a higher level of fear when money problems arise.

2. Financial Infidelity

Beyond differing views, some couples may experience shame, secrecy, and resentment regarding spending. According to a CreditCards.com poll, 1 in 5 Americans have spent $500 or more without their partner’s knowledge, and 6% have maintained hidden bank accounts or used secret credit cards. This is most often done so a spouse can avoid conflict within his or her relationship.

3. Uneven Spending Between Spouses

It’s not uncommon for one spouse to spend more than the other. Interestingly enough, people are more likely to consider themselves the saver. That same SunTrust survey mentioned earlier revealed that 34% of respondents said they were the saver and that their partner was the spender, and 13% said the reverse. This means that 47% of respondents say they and their partner have different spending and saving habits. Uneven spending can quickly cause friction as the saver may feel that the spender isn’t managing his or her money well. And on the other side, the spender may feel as though his or her spouse is micromanaging his or her habits.

Whether you have or are currently experiencing some or all of these issues, money doesn’t have to be a pain point. Here are a few simple strategies that may help couples stay on the same page and eliminate the discomforts of money talk.

Be Honest About Spending

Whether you’re married or live together, have a joint account or separate bank accounts, it’s important for both partners to offer full disclosure of their finances and be open about expenses. You and your spouse should be aware of how you spend your money, especially when it comes to significant costs, loans, or ongoing fees. Studies show that around 49% of financial arguments are about unexpected expenses. By maintaining an open line of communication regarding upcoming bills, you may be able to avoid such confrontations.

Establish Boundaries

Some people are spenders while others are savers. It’s important for a couple to be on the same page regarding their finances. How much can be spent per month on non-essentials? How much is too much for a new pair of shoes? Establish and agree upon a few basic guidelines and structure for how you will spend and save money. If one of you is more disciplined than the other, you may consider having the disciplined spouse manage the monthly budget and spending.

Maintain Transparency

Most often, one spouse acts as the financial manager of the household, paying and maintaining all bills, budgets, savings, investments, and insurance policies. However, it can be helpful for both partners to understand their spending versus their saving. If time allows, sit down together once a month to review credit card statements, account transactions, and other bills and check for any possible errors. This helps you both recognize any spending patterns and stay on the same track with your financial goals.

Enlist the Help of an Objective Third-Party

Sometimes the best way to ease money tensions is to work with an objective third-party, whether that’s a financial advisor, a marriage counselor, or both. A financial advisor can work with you and your spouse together to review your financial landscape, identify any gaps in your coverage, assist you in establishing short and long-term goals, help you stay on track, and provide professional and knowledgeable advice. Some couples seek guidance from a marriage counselor for assistance with building stronger lines of communication and compromise.

Although spending and budgeting can cause tension, it doesn’t have to become a constant source of concern in a relationship. Invest the time to address spending habits and savings goals, uphold transparency regarding bills, and communicate effectively (whether that’s amongst the two of you or with the help of an advisor or counselor).

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