Financial Dos and Don'ts for Couples

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Common Mistakes Couples Make when Dealing with Money

“I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay,” sings Abba in their famed hit Money, Money, Money – it’s a rich man’s world. For the majority of couples who didn’t find their “wealthy man”, money is a weighty issue, especially between partners who find themselves working and working yet surrounded by debts.

Talking about money is important, but surveys have found that roughly 70 per cent of couples do just that and yet they are still at war when it comes to funds. Why is that? Mary Claire Allvine, financial planner, told she believes this is because couples don’t know how to discuss their finances appropriately.

“People tend to be emotional and reactive about money, not strategic,” she says. And this is what leads them to make large financial mistakes.

To prevent these from occurring in your relationship, SmartMoney compiled the following helpful list of financial dos and don’ts in discussing coin with your partner:

Managing the Finances

Don’t say: I will never bank with you.
Do say: Let’s learn how to manage our money together.

Unless one of you is saddled with debt and a bad history of mis-managing funds, experts recommend that couples meet in the middle, keeping some finances independent and a growing chunk merged for shared costs such as mortgage payments and household bills. Don’t try to force the issue; only merge at a speed at which both of you are comfortable. Blending should occur naturally, in line with the progress of your relationship.

Handling Debt

Don’t say: Pay off your debt before it ruins us.
Do say: Let’s find a way to pay off our debt together.

Debt is the number one inciter of financial spats between couples. Make it a priority to find the most direct, efficient way to pay down and manage that debt. Remember that debt – as much as assets – becomes the property of both partners once they merge. If one partner has had a reckless past with moneys, or you simply want to protect the assets you have accumulated independently, you may want to explore the option of a prenup.

Keeping Tabs on Spending

Don’t say: I do all the saving and you do all the spending.
Do say: Let’s work on our budget.

Most studies show that partners actually spend the same amount, regardless of the labels they apply to one another. What they spend money on, however, usually differs. One may be guilty of eating out daily while the other is a sucker for gadgets. There is an easy solution. Sit down with your bank statements and monthly bills and find areas where moneys can be shaved. Cap areas that are draining your accounts and apply spending limitations together.


Don’t say: You take too many risks; I’m handling our retirement savings.
Do say: Let’s establish some timelines and take as much risk as our parameters and goals allow.

Though historically men have reported more comfort in taking risks with money, depending on the time in which you are planning to invest, and the amount you can comfortably go without, high risk investments may not be a couple’s best option. Talk over your investment goals, discuss them with a financial planner, and compromise. Perhaps short term investments can be made in moderate risk vehicles while you can afford be more liberal with long-term retirement funds.


Don’t say: What my partner doesn’t know can’t hurt them.
Do say: Financial secrets can destroy a relationship.

A SmartMoney survey found that 40 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men admitted to lying to their partner about the price of a purchase they had made. While a white lie like, “I bought this purse on sale” might go without damage, large purchases, investments that go a-rye and gambling tendencies that go unspoken can corrode the trust, and thereby destroy the foundation, in a relationship. Be straight-up with your partner about purchases at all times.

Emergency Funds

Don’t say: Nothing’s going to happen.
Do say: Anything could happen; let’s be ready for an emergency.

SmartMoney recommends that all couples have a money reserve that would cover all their expenses for at least three to six months in the event that the unexpected does occur. Not only will this cash store provide you both security, in the case that something financially shattering does occur you won’t be scrambling in panic and making emotional decisions.

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