Manage Money As a Couple: How to Resolve the Conflict

Banks Editorial Team · November 17, 2017

How manage money together with a partner can be tricky. You’re a saver, but your partner is a spender (or vice versa). How can the two of you come together in financial harmony? Money may not buy happiness, but it sure can put a crimp in an otherwise harmonious relationship with your spouse or significant other.

Studies have long confirmed that money is the main source of conflict in couple relationships. So learning how to manage money may be one of the secrets to long-term partnerships. In fact, a recent survey by SunTrust Bank reveals that 35 percent of respondents identify money as the primary cause of fractures in their relationship. More alarmingly, a longitudinal study published in Family Relations magazine identifies arguments over money as the leading predictor of divorce.

Fortunately, there is hope. Couples who work together to spend money wisely, take a responsible view toward managing and monitoring their credit, and develop a long-term savings plan are in a better position to avoid a trip to divorce court. Here are some guidelines that you and your partner can use to manage money together, avoid money conflict and put you on a path to financial well-being.

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Develop a Household Money Strategy

Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Leon F. Seltzer observes that fights over money are actually fundamental disagreements about the couple’s core values. One partner may see spending money as a reward for working hard. The other may be a saver who doesn’t believe in spending money before it is earned. You can potentially solve disagreements by striving to understand the other person’s perspective as well as seeking areas of agreement and compromise.

As an example, let’s say one partner wants to eat out on a regular basis while the other sees it as a waste of money. The solution may lie somewhere in the middle—i.e., setting aside a monthly “dining out” allowance; using discounts or coupons to make restaurants more affordable; and making home cooking a shared—and therefore more enjoyable—experience. Take a similar approach with other household expenditures, working out strategies for spending money and managing credit in a way that fits overall financial goals.

Don’t Be a Secret Spender

A 2016 Harris Poll shows that financial infidelity—in which one partner spends money in secret—is on the rise. Among U.S. adults, 42 percent admitted to hiding purchases from their partner, up from 33 percent just two years before. Not only does this secret spending potentially put your household finances at risk, but it also erodes trust. Be as upfront as possible with your partner about major expenditures so you can make collective decisions that put you on a sound financial path.

Target Credit Scores for Improvement

Keep regular tabs on your individual credit score so you can identify areas for improvement. If you see a weak spot in your or your partner’s credit history, have a discussion about how you can boost your scores. Perhaps you can lower your credit card utilization and be more careful about opening new accounts. Having a shared goal to improve your use of credit can help you put your differences aside and work in better harmony.

Give a Little, Get a Little

You don’t have to “win” every money battle. Make sure each of you gets a chance to weigh in on your spending and saving priorities. When there are disagreements, work it out so that your partner sometimes gets the final say and sometimes the final call goes to you. A cash or credit compromise can go a long way to keep the peace.

Use an Outside Mediator

Often it takes an outside expert like a financial planner or a credit counselor to give you important insights into your financial situation. As a couple, agree to use this expert’s advice to help identify problem areas and make improvements in how you manage money.

The underlying premise of all these strategies is working together to meet shared financial goals. If you’re able to do that, you and your partner will be on your way to a more harmonious and financially secure relationship.

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