Couples Are Failing At Financial Communication, According To A New Study

money and marriage

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What do your convos with your SO look like? Maybe you’re debating which show to binge on Netflix tonight, venting about the latest drama at work or planning your next weekend away. But the one thing you might not be talking about enough? Money.

Financial firm Fidelity’s recent study found that more than half of the 3,000-plus respondents over the age of 22 who were in a long-term relationship or marriage said they aren’t on the same page as their partner when it comes to how much to save for retirement. Plus, 36 percent of those surveyed said that debt is a main concern, with half of that same group citing money as their biggest relationship challenge.

“Financial instability is ultimately the greatest cause of stress for my clients, and without proper communication that can only be magnified,” Northwestern Mutual Financial Advisor Nicholas Zanoni told Swirled. “When a couple isn’t aligned on financial planning, goals or timelines, there can be quite a lot of unnecessary friction that could have been avoided.”

Whether you’re dating, engaged or married, discussing your money situation is super important if you want a healthy relationship — and we’re not just talking about who’s picking up the bill at Chipotle.

Money and marriage can be two very scary things for millennials to discuss. We’re marrying later in life than past generations and are paying off a lot of student loan debt. But it’s important to talk about all of this and more with our partners, especially if we plan to marry them one day.

“Speaking with a financial advisor can help get everyone on the same page to alleviate that friction and answer any questions, as well,” Zanoni said. “Obviously things come up, and life happens; but being communicative and transparent can only help that relationship both in regard to financial security and overall health.”

couple hugging

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For Jenson Quon, 32, of Calgary, Alberta, it took about three months into his relationship to start talking about finances with his girlfriend. But once they started, it became a natural part of their weekly conversations, talking about budgeting, spending, saving, bills, debt and credit cards.

“There’s always a bit of hesitation at the beginning of the relationship to see how much to share and what might be oversharing especially when it comes to talking about money,” Quon told Swirled via email.

Now, he suggests all couples should be transparent about money early on.

“That way you know whether you’re compatible or not romantically, but also when it comes to how each other thinks when it comes to finances and spending,” Quon said. “There’s nothing worse than finding out your partner has a spending problem and if you should marry that person, that debt now becomes a burden that you both have to carry.”

Millennial couple Lindsey and Christopher Wisnowski, 27, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, agree with Quon’s point about knowing what your partner’s financial situation looks like before marriage. They’ve been married for almost a year and talking about their finances became a priority in their relationship as soon as it got serious.

“We discuss all aspects of finances and don’t keep anything from one another now,” Christopher Wisnowski told Swirled via email. “We frequently discuss things such as what percentage of our paychecks go directly into our retirement accounts, savings accounts… and try to budget accordingly so that after all the bills are paid we have money for ourselves and going out with friends. We find that the more we talk openly about our finances and financial goals, the less stressful it becomes.”

couple sitting on dock

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Couples can and should work together to support one another in their financial goals. Christina Castro, 27, of Davenport, Iowa, told Swirled that she and her fiancé have their financial goals in mind at all times. Their finances are extremely important to them, and so she suggests others do the same.

“We want to be able to live the life we always imagined, provide for a family, and stay debt free,” Castro said. “Have an honest discussion about your financial goals as a couple and as an individual.”

Fidelity suggests working with your partner to put together a list of all financial accounts and name any beneficiaries on those accounts, come up with a plan for the worst-case scenario and know where all important documents are at all times. It’s also smart to disclose your spending and saving habits, any budgets you’ve created and the high-interest debt you’re working to pay down. In other words, it’s just a good idea to be open and honest.

“Keeping secrets from one another and being dishonest doesn’t [suggest] a strong and healthy relationship,” Wisnowski said. “Finances can be stressful, and they have the potential to cause some uncomfortable conversations, but if your relationship is at the point where those discussions are necessary, in the end, it’s better to have them and just be upfront. Decisions should always be made together, and unless you’ve clearly communicated your feelings you cannot assume your significant others understands your view point. Communication is key.”


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