YOUR RE­LA­TION­SHIP

Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

oney mat­ters are well doc­u­mented as be­ing one of the ma­jor causes of ar­gu­ments and stress be­tween cou­ples. Re­cent re­search has even gone so far as to high­light rows about fi­nan­cial is­sues as the big­gest sin­gle pre­dic­tor of di­vorce.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a sim­ple ap­proach to solv­ing th­ese pe­cu­niary prob­lems, your re­la­tion­ship will re­main se­cure – you can bank on it.

YOU HAVE DIF­FER­ENT IDEAS ABOUT SPEND­ING

One of the most com­mon causes of strife be­tween cou­ples stems from their dif­fer­ing at­ti­tudes to­wards their spend­ing.

“Of­ten we’re ac­tu­ally ar­gu­ing about what’s im­por­tant to us in life,” Lyn Fletcher, a coun­sel­lor at Re­la­tion­ships Aus­tralia, says. “One per­son might want to travel, while the other wants to spend money on clothes – it comes down to pri­or­i­ties.”

Be open-minded about your part­ner’s at­ti­tude. “It’s of­ten got to do with the way we were brought up,” Fletcher says. “If one of you comes from a house­hold where money was never an is­sue and the other comes from a fam­ily where they had to save hard for ev­ery­thing, then you’re go­ing to have dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes to money.”

That’s cer­tainly how it was for Jade de Souza, 28, and her part­ner Glenn Wil­liam, 26, when they first got to­gether. Her fam­ily were al­ways big spenders, whereas he’d been raised to think thriftily. “Of­ten I’d sug­gest go­ing out for din­ner or go­ing on hol­i­day to­gether but he’d say no be­cause we’d been out the week be­fore, or wouldn’t go on a hol­i­day be­cause he was sav­ing to buy a house or busi­ness,” de Souza says.

But af­ter she fi­nally con­vinced Wil­liam to travel over­seas with her in 2011, things started bal­anc­ing out. “He saw that it’s im­por­tant to live in the mo­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence life,” de Souza says. “And I re­alised I needed to be a bit more sen­si­ble with my money, so I took his ad­vice and set up a di­rect-debit into sav­ings. We still have our dif­fer­ences but are re­spect­ful of each other’s opin­ions.”

ONE OF YOU EARNS MUCH MORE THAN THE OTHER

If one per­son is rak­ing in the cash while their part­ner is strug­gling to make ends meet, it’s time to talk. Whether you start pool­ing your funds or brain­storm­ing a fair com­pro­mise for the mort­gage, bills or rent, it’s im­por­tant that you work as a team fi­nan­cially.

“If a cou­ple isn’t com­mit­ted to shar­ing ex­penses, I’d ques­tion why they’re in the re­la­tion­ship to be­gin with,” Fletcher says.

Fi­nan­cial plan­ner Michelle Tate-Lovery says both part­ners need to be across the fi­nances. “Some cou­ples ab­di­cate con­trol of han­dling the fi­nances to the per­son who’s earn­ing the money, but if death, dis­abil­ity or di­vorce hap­pens, then they can be left ill equipped,” she says.

That’s not to say you have to have joint ac­counts. “Your pay might go into your in­di­vid­ual bank ac­counts, and you might have a joint ac­count where money is put for com­mon ex­penses,” she says.

YOU’RE SHACK­ING UP

In the ex­cite­ment of mov­ing in to­gether it can be easy to sweep the topic of money un­der the car­pet. But if you don’t lay a few ground rules, ten­sion can mount. “You can’t just think you’ll dis­cuss it when the time’s right be­cause the right time is now – not in 12 or 18 months’ time when the re­la­tion­ship goes sour,” Fletcher says. “Have a con­ver­sa­tion about your be­hav­iour around money and your at­ti­tudes about what’s im­por­tant.”

There shouldn’t be any fi­nan­cial se­crets. “Write a bal­ance sheet, look­ing at what your fixed and vari­able ex­penses are so you can un­der­stand your cash flow,” Tate-Lovery says.

ONE PER­SON AL­READY HAS A MORT­GAGE

If you’re mov­ing into your part­ner’s home, then dis­cuss who will pay for what to en­sure things are fair.

“Lis­ten care­fully to the other per­son and clearly ar­tic­u­late what it is you want with­out try­ing to force the other per­son to come across to your point of view,” Fletcher says. “Have a chat about your com­mon life goals. Be­ing on the same page will give you the mo­ti­va­tion and the de­sire to pay at­ten­tion to your fi­nances.”

Le­gal ad­vice may be nec­es­sary to avoid messy sit­u­a­tions later. “You have to make a de­ci­sion as to whether or not you con­trib­ute to the mort­gage. As soon as you do, it gets com­pli­cated with le­gal­i­ties,” Tate-Lovery says.

YOU’RE BOTH STRUG­GLING TO SAVE

While you might think that higher salaries are a so­lu­tion to a lack of sav­ings, Tate-Lovery says bud­get­ing is key so that you’re work­ing to­wards mu­tual goals.

“Once you’ve worked out what you want to save, get that deb­ited from your pay so you have to live on what’s left. Also al­lo­cate an amount of mis­cel­la­neous money into the bud­get, so that if one of you wants to buy clothes, it’s ac­counted for,” she says.

Fi­nan­cial rows caus­ing a rift? Save your ro­mance and your bank bal­ance with th­ese ex­pert tips on how to keep the pe­cu­niary peace with your part­ner. By Kim­berly Gil­lan

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