Money Matters: Addressing Financial Differences In Relationships

Every relationship goes through major transition points. There’s moving in together, meeting the parents, getting engaged –  but while we talk about some of these openly, there’s one topic that tends to get swept under the rug. Money. From blending your finances to making major purchases together, couples need to have some tough conversations before mixing their funds. But what happens when you and your partner have different financial philosophies? 

Whether you have different financial goals or conflicting spending habits, how you approach money can be a source of tension. Couples need to consider these number of factors before taking on any major financial commitments together.

Put Your Cards On The Table

Before you can even start talking about your respective financial philosophies and anxieties, the first thing any couple needs to do is just put all their cards – or their bills – on the table. Many people are reticent to talk about how much debt they have, what their daily spending habits and indulgences look like, or exactly how much they earn. That’s totally understandable! Even if you don’t plan on blending accounts, though, you can’t set joint financial goals unless you’re willing to talk about these issues. 

Explore Your Values

How we spend is influenced by a number of different factors, many of which can be traced back to our childhoods. We may replicate our family’s spending habits, spend based on religious principles, or make purchases to keep up with peers. When we start saving and spending as a couple, though, we need to consider whether our habits reflect our actual financial values – what we want to spend our money on – and our goals – what we hope our finances look like in the future.

If you’re not sure where to start with this discussion, some key topics you may want to address include: 

  • Earning Differences: How much does each person earn? How do earning differences make you feel? How do you believe earning differences should influence how each person contributes to the household?
  • Spending vs. Saving: Do you take a structured approach to saving? Do you spend based on a budget or more casually? Do you prioritize spending over saving or vice versa?
  • Equal vs. Proportional Household Contributions: Do you think each person should contribute equally to household finances? If there are major earning differences, should contributions be proportional to income?
  • Lending or Gifting Money: Do you lend money to friends or family? If so, how do you handle it? What happens if money isn’t repaid?
  • Emergency Planning: How much emergency savings do you believe you should have? How do you hope to meet that goal? 

Goals And The Issue Of Incompatibility

Finally, having tackled the big spending trends in your lives, it’s time to talk about your goals. As a couple, discussing your goals is going to be a wide-ranging conversation. For example, your financial needs and goals will be different if you want to have children than if you plan on remaining childless. Similarly, if you plan to rent your home, but want to travel a lot, you’ll have to address how you’ll budget for travel, while a couple with a mortgage will need to plan for those expenses. 

What happens if your goals are different or your financial values are hugely divergent? Some couples have found that seeing a financial therapist can be helpful. More traditional couples counseling can also benefit couples who need help learning how to talk about these topics.

Building healthy communication habits is key to a lasting relationship, but it will also serve you in all aspects of your life. Sign up for Emi today and begin strengthening your relationship in under a minute a day. You may just learn a lot about your partner – and yourself.