As anyone who’s ever been in a relationship surely knows, money can be quite the contentious issue. Whether you’re baffled by your partners’ overspending (another new shirt, really?!) or irritated by her perceived stinginess (why does she have to count every penny?!), there’s no denying that money causes fights.
In fact, couples fight about money an average of five times per year, according to a survey released this week by financial company TD Ameritrade and personal finance website LearnVest. While a little fight here and there isn’t a big deal, money battles can lead to bigger issues — namely, divorce.
Of all the common things couples fight about — in-laws, chores, spending time together — “money disputes were the best harbingers of divorce,” according to a study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University, as published in the New York Times. The more you fought about money, the more likely you were to divorce.
Frankly, that sounds scary. So, eHow talked to Alex Navarro, the senior vice president and a financial adviser for SunTrust Investment Services, to discuss how couples can avoid money fights.
Create shared goals.
If you’re each working towards different money goals — he’s saving up for his dream car, you for a house in the ‘burbs — it’s easy to end up battling it out when you don’t have enough money to fully save for each goal. Instead, couples should create a shared goals list, where each goal is prioritized (some goals can get equal priority, meaning that an equal amount of money goes to each goal). Be sure to put things like getting out of debt, building up an emergency fund (most experts recommend you save six months worth of income) and saving for retirement at the top of your list. With a written, agreed-upon list of money goals, you both know exactly where to put your money each month (no arguments needed).
Hold regular money meetings.
“Marriage is all about communication, but many people don’t talk about finances often enough,” says Navarro. It’s important to have regular (many experts recommend monthly) “money meetings,” where you look at what you’ve spent over the past month, what you’ve saved and where you are in the path towards meeting your money goals like getting out of debt or saving for a home. (Using a money management site like Mint.com can help you do this.) By doing this, you can get ahead of potential money issues, before they turn into fights.
When you talk about money, details are important to include, says Navarro. So, it’s not enough just to say something like “I’d like to buy a home, let’s save for it.” Instead, you have to figure out how much of a down payment you’ll need and create a detailed plan (how much will you save each month, where will you cut spending so you can save that money) to help you get there. Without a plan like this — that both of you agree on — it’s easy to play the blame game when you haven’t achieved the goals you’d hoped to.