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August 16, 2019

The top 5 money issues married couples face (and how to avoid them)

They say money can’t buy you love, but it can cause stress in a marriage if you and your partner don’t talk about finances regularly. 

Nearly one-in-three (30%) couples say finances cause the most stress in their relationship, followed distantly by intimacy (11%), their children (9%) and their in-laws (4%).

One would think that couples discuss money with their partners before committing to “for richer and for poorer, till death do us part”,  but an American Express survey found that only 43% of the general population talked money before marriage, but the number rises to 57% for affluent couples and jumps to 81% for young professionals. 

If you are arguing with your spouse about money, you’re not alone. It’s no secret that a lasting relationship takes time and work. 

Here are five common issues couples face when it comes to their money and relationship—and how to avoid them.

1. Not discussing what you owe, what you own, and what you take home 

It’s not always easy to shift from a mindset of taking care of your own finances to balancing you and your spouse’s needs. It gets even trickier if you have different spending habits, financial beliefs, and goals. 

Start with a budget

Creating a budget is the best place to start. Sit down and talk about your finances and then create a budget around your shared expenses like rent, car payments, insurance, etc. Address the predictable expenses first. 

Then talk about the variable expenses like groceries, eating out, and other nonessentials. How you split these expenses is up to you, but it is important to agree on it beforehand. It is also important to talk about how you will pay down debt, how much you will save for an emergency fund, and how much you will set aside and invest for your future. 

Speaking of owing…

2. Till debt do us part 

Keeping financial secrets can hurt your relationship. Breaking trust in a relationship is damaging, no matter how you do it.  

According to a GOBankingRates survey, 27% of respondents said they would divorce their spouse over issues with financial secrecy. Is it really worth ruining a relationship over something that can be discussed?

Ask these pre-wedding questions 

In most states, you are not legally responsible for debts before getting married. However, the state you live in could drastically alter how much debt you will be liable for after you say your I do’s. The best route to take is to talk to your partner about debt before getting married.  Find out whether you’re in a community-property or common-law state to understand your financial responsibilities. It’s not a sexy conversation, but it can have long-term implications and should not be ignored. 

3. Not setting financial priorities together

Money is a touchy subject, but it’s necessary to have the big money talk before saying “I do.” Personal finance can sometimes be an embarrassing topic to discuss with your significant other, but talking about your financial goals is just as important as talking about your hopes and dreams, especially if you want to turn your hopes and dreams into reality. Hey, something’s gotta fund your way there. 


Sit down with your partner and make a list of goals.  It’s important to talk about what each of you wants. Most couples assume that they agree on opinions and finance, but it may not be the case. Writing down clear goals will help you both determine how much to save each month, how much to put aside for your short-term goals, and how you will reach your long-term financial goals.

4. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours

When you’re in a committed relationship, chances are you share most things with your spouse– your home, your pet, your food…but surprisingly enough, many don’t share finances. 

According to a Policygenius study, one in five people keeps and manages their money separately from their partners. 

People who keep their money separate from their mates are more likely to break up due to their partner’s money issues, are less likely to know about each others’ finances, and are less likely to be prepared for emergencies. 

Sharing is caring 

You don’t necessarily have to run to the bank right now and merge all of your finances, but it does help to communicate openly about your financial status. 

Discuss whether you want to pool your finances or keep them separate, or if you want to have a combination of having joint and individual accounts. Talk about your financial obligations, debts and how you want to handle them. Decide how you’ll share expenses. 

As in your other conversations, having an open and honest talk will help you work together to come up with a plan that works.

5. Irreconcilable (Salary) Differences 

Chances are that in most relationships, one makes more than the other. And this can cause stress in marriages if not approached right. Whether the difference is $1,000 or $10,000, money equates to power and the salary inequality can lead to guilt and resentment.

Make it a team effort

Start off by talking openly about how the difference makes you both feel and consider your options. Some couples have joint accounts and act like the disparity doesn’t exist, others contribute half to the expenses no matter the disparity, and others follow the proportion rule, contributing the % they make of the household income to the expenses.  

At the end of the day, couples are on the same team and should act like it. Treat each other as teammates and find a solution that works best for you.

Look at the big picture

A conflict about money isn’t all that different from any other conflict you might have with your partner.  Finances are emotional. Partners rarely ever agree on every issue, so approach your finances the same way you would talk about other things like how you would like to raise your children, your religious beliefs, where you will spend your holidays, etc. 

Don’t fall into the trap many couples do by avoiding a discussion because you’re afraid of disagreeing. It’s better to talk about it than to have to deal with the consequences later on.

Every couple is different and there is no set formula on how you should manage your finances. As a married couple, approach your finances as a team. Understand each other’s values, set common goals, and be open to compromises on how money should be spent.

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