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