Whether you're married or just dating, money is a divisive issue in any relationship. It's a top cause of arguments, more than kids, chores, even the in-laws. In fact, research shows that couples that argue over finances at least once a week are 30% more likely to call it quits. So here's some important information to help you avoid a breakup over money.
Show All Your Cards
"The foundation of any relationship is honesty and that goes for money too," says Self Magazine's Laura Brounstein. "You want to be really honest with each other in how you think about finances. You don't want to find financial skeletons in his closet or, if you have financial skeleton in your closet, you don't want them jumping out when you least expect it." Brounstein says it's best to be as honest as possible as soon as possible. "Not being honest cannot only put your relationship at risk but put your financial wellbeing at risk."
Before getting serious, prepare to disclose your fiscal past and present. No one can get upset with you if you lay out your cards early, so set a time and place to reveal your salary, credit score and all debt - including credit card balances and student loans. If, for example, news of your partner's past bankruptcy sneaks up after you've co-signed a lease, resentment and disappointment are likely to ensue. This holds true for smaller indiscretions as well by either hiding receipts, disguising a new purchase or claiming they got something on sale when they actually didn't.
"You wouldn't want your partner to not tell you that he was married before. You wouldn't want to not have it be open in the relationship that maybe one of you had a loan before or some credit issues," says Brounstein.
Set a Spending Threshold
A lot of couples argue over money because they don't see eye to eye on the value of certain items. While you think it's okay to spend $1200 on a new TV, your partner might not. For household purchases, agree to have a spending threshold of, say, $200-300. To keep the peace, any purchase above that threshold should be discussed beforehand.
Align Your Goals
While you may not always agree on the little things, it's more important that you find common ground over major goals and expectations. After all, goals carry price tags and the sooner you begin planning the better.
Bank on Your Strengths
Research shows that financial opposites attract. Savers attract spenders and vice versa, so if you find that you're not on the same page as your partner, you're probably not alone. Rather than dwell on these differences, focus on your strengths. If you're better at finding deals then you be the household shopper. The more frugal person ought to be managing the bills.
Consider Living Separate Financial Lives
However, if your partner has stains on his or her financial record such as mounting credit card debt or a poor credit score, I recommend living separate financial lives, at least until the situation improves. Avoid cosigning on loans or entering into new financial agreements during this time or else your partner's financial issues could officially become both of your problems.
Seek Advice From the Pros
Finally keep in mind if all else fails, there's always professional help. Check out the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education for a database of certified financial counselors in your area.
"There's no reason for the financial stuff to be mucking up your relationship," Brounstein says. "You can get someone else to help you take care of it and not have that hurt the good stuff going on in your relationship."
As always, we want to hear from you. How do you handle financial differences in your relationship? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, using the #finfit hashtag.