Love and money – stop fighting and start talking

Fighting about money? You’re not alone! At least 50% of couples argue about money, and if the statistics are to be believed, money issues are the cause of many breakups. The good news is that with some time and some talking, you can move on from your money issues!

We found out which money issues cause problems in relationships, and with some expert help, found ways to help you deal with them.

Money issues that cause problems

There are many ways to make money, and many ways to spend it. So it’s no surprise that couples fight over money, even if they have similar spending and saving patterns and share similar money values. Common causes of money fights include:

  • Perceived or real unequal contributions to living expenses.
  • Debt – too much, too little, hidden debt.
  • Disagreements over when, and by how much, to financially assist family members.
  • Different money goals.

There’s no getting away from money, but there are a few ways to avoid the big money blow-out that could end your relationship.

Be open and fully disclose

Psychologist and counsellor Carol Nader, and social auxiliary worker at The Family Life Centre Cathleen Jones, are both adamant on the most important principle when dealing with money in a relationship: talk about it and be honest with each other.

“Secrets around money can be as devastating as infidelity,” says Cathleen.

That means disclosing everything to each other, including:

  • How much debt you have.
  • Your attitude towards money – for example, are you a spender or saver or somewhere in the middle?
  • Your money goals – do you want to save for life events such as education, holidays, a family home or second home, a car or retirement?
  • Your financial products such as life insurance, loans, credit and store cards, car finance, pension fund, investments and savings accounts.

This is a serious discussion, so set some time aside where you can talk without being interrupted and make a list of discussion points beforehand so you know what you want to say.

Agree to some ground rules before you start talking, such as not interrupting each other and taking time out if things get heated or a disclosure shocks you. Also agree on what you want out of the discussion: to find ways to manage your money better and deal with any money problems together.

Decide on financial goals, draw up a financial plan and budget

This is where you need to decide what your financial goals are, such as owning a family home, starting a family business, saving for education and/or holidays. You need to agree on these, which may involve some compromise, and come up with a plan to achieve them – together.

Once you’ve agreed on those goals, it’s time to draw up a financial plan and budget, if possible, with the help of a financial adviser, who will be able to design something based on your specific needs and circumstances.

Decide how you will split expenses

Ideally, decide on this before you begin living together, but it’s never too late to start or change. You have several options:

  • Split expenses equally: Either use a joint account that each partner contributes a set amount to each month or track all expenses and split the costs equally.
  • Split expenses according to type: One partner could pay for a home loan and the other for education. This comes with a pitfall: one partner could pay – or believe they are paying – an unfair portion of expenses.
  • Split contributions to expenses according to earnings: It is rare for both partners to earn the same amount, so contributing to expenses in line with earnings is in many cases a better option, with the partner who earns more, contributing more.

Carol suggests putting all household expenses on a prefunded card, with any debit orders running through the account it is linked to. Paying for all expenses on this card will allow you to track what is spent (so that you don’t end up spending more than your partner) and stick to a budget.

Talk regularly

Don’t have just one money discussion. Carol suggests six-monthly meetings to discuss budget, savings and retirement planning. “Money may mean different things to different people, so the couple must promise each other to have frequent discussions and keep each other informed of any additional credit card debt.”

When money becomes a problem

“When money is an issue, you should work collaboratively to solve the problem,” says Carol. This may involve agreeing to a plan to tackle the problem or getting professional help.

“If the trust is broken, say if debt has been hidden, it might be necessary to enlist the help of a counsellor for a mediated discussion on how the couple can recover trust,” Carol says.

Professional help can also come from a financial adviser, who can draw up a plan to help the couple solve a financial problem.

Know the legal status of your relationship

Your financial status as part of a couple is affected by the legal status of your relationship, so you should always know what this is, and how it can affect you financially.

Living together with no co-habitation agreement: You are not considered legally married and one partner has no claim on another’s finances – either in death or if the relationship breaks up.

Married in community of property: You share everything – including debts.

Married out of community of property with no accrual system: You have no say or claim on your spouse’s finances and assets – and you leave a relationship as you came into it – with only your own assets.

Married out of community of property with the accrual system: You share everything created while you are in the partnership.

Together!

You’re a couple, and while you need to accept your money differences, you also need to agree on and work on your finances together, so you achieve your financial goals. Managing money is a journey: there will be wrong turns and the occasional questionable decision. There will also be good decisions and rewards when you share your journey and reach your end goals.

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