Half of Couples Fight About Money

How to talk about finances before it turns into an argument

Arguing with your significant other about money? You’re not alone. Nearly half of couples in long-term relationships admit to fighting over their finances, according to new research from The Cashlorette. This shouldn’t be surprising, granted that although using money is something we do every single day, it can still be a sensitive subject — even in long-term romantic relationships. Although it takes some work, getting on the same page about finances with your partner is necessary in the long haul — and some things you learn in the short haul (even on the first date) can be a red flag.

First Date Expectations

Finances aren’t exactly a common first-date topic, but clashes in opinions about money often start that early, according to the survey. Just over one-third of women want to split the check on a first date, while 85 percent of men prefer to pick up the bill themselves. If that gap in expectations leads to a discussion? Well, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you can get through the back-and-forth while keeping a smile on your faces, that bodes well for future get-togethers. And there’s always the option to tee up date #2 by noting, “I’ll get it next time.”

Spending Habits Are Key
What you learn on that first date (or the first several) can give you a huge amount of information about this person you’re getting involved with. According to the study, most people are comfortable spending around $90 to $100 for that introductory meeting. If you’re out with someone who is wayyyy off those levels — high or low — that’s a piece of information to file away for later. Why? The most common fights are about how much the other partner is spending or saving, says blogger Sarah Berger, who commissioned the poll. Despite often strong differences in opinion, people are pretty hesitant to bring it up, even when there are clearly problems. “It’s still treated as a taboo conversation topic, especially when it comes to dating,” she adds. The best way to approach things? Scheduling regular dates to discuss finances, including goals, spending habits, savings, and investments. That way, you won’t be able to avoid the topic.

Talk It Out

The biggest reason for arguments over money come down to a difference in values, says Sonya Britt-Lutter, Associate Professor of Financial Planning at Kansas State University. For example, one partner might value charitable contributions, while the other might value savings more. However, this doesn’t mean you’re incompatible — it simply means you’ll need to talk to each other about how to make it work. “Successful couples are open with each other and they explain why something is important to them,” says Britt-Lutter. “The basic communication strategy is to start your sentence with the word ‘I’; for example, ‘I feel happy when I can donate to the shelter,’” she says. By taking ownership of your values rather than placing blame on another person, you can start talking about your money in a constructive way.

Divide And Conquer

If you tend to be on different pages about money, Berger has a recommendation: separate personal accounts. You’ll have a joint account and contribute money for shared expenses but maintain some financial autonomy. That way, you can make the occasional splurge on yourself guilt-free and spend on what you value, and let your partner do the same. Britt-Lutter goes a step further, recommending separate savings accounts for different spending areas so that you plan ahead of time how much you’ll be spending. For example, decide at the beginning of the year how much you want to spend on travel, then allocate a portion of your income every month to a savings account with that label. Whatever type of system you decide on, it’s important to make it clear and actionable. “I think that’s where the root of a lot of relationships problems come from — different expectations, says Britt-Lutter. “Don’t leave room for interpretation.”

With Ellie Schroeder

Jean Chatzky

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