Love and money can be a bit like oil and water if you and your sweetheart aren’t on the same page. When it comes to love, finances and goals, life doesn’t always play out like a rom-com. No matter how strong your connection, or how deeply you’re in Love (Actually), making a relationship work past the first flush of love is more than a serendipitous ‘meet cute’.
Merging lives often means merging money too. That might seem as simple as combining bank accounts, but when it comes to money and relationships, it’s complicated. Consider this: money is the number one issue that couples fight about. It’s also the second leading cause of divorce behind infidelity. Yikes!
How you manage money together and separately could have a Titanic impact on just how well your relationship stays afloat. According to New Zealand law, after three years your finances are their finances (including their debts!), so if you’re in love but aren’t on the same page yet, it may pay to keep reading.
How to talk to your partner about money
Money talk is still seen as a big taboo, even in long-term relationships. No matter how long you’ve been with your partner it can be uncomfortable talking about your financial past, present and future. If you want to build your relationship on trust and transparency however, it may pay to be open. A surprising number of couples don’t know each other’s salaries or spending habits. And studies have shown that if you leave all financial decisions to your partner you could be more financially vulnerable if the relationship ends. You’re partners in life, and ideally this means an equal financial partnership, sharing the bills, the worries, the stress, and the eventual joy that comes with budgeting, living, and growing your wealth together.
Luckily, the more often you sit down to talk about money, the easier it gets. Get comfy and pour yourselves a glass of something nice and have a go at answering these questions together:
- What are our financial goals for the next year? Five years? 10 years? Do we want to spend big on travel and be Sleepless in Seattle, or would we rather splash out on being the Princess Bride (or groom)?
- What are our values around money? Do we prefer to save or spend?
- Are there any debts we need to disclose to each other?
- Do we need to make any lifestyle changes to help us to reach our goals?
- Are there any financial issues that we need to address?
Make sure to do these financial check-ins regularly so you can both work towards your future goals together.
How to be financially faithful to your partner
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to most things in relationships, including money things. Financial infidelity is a real thing that’s worth being aware of when dating gets serious.
Financial infidelity is when someone spends money on the sly, either through secret credit or loans, or credit cards, or secret stashes of money. It could be as simple as lying about the price of a purchase, through to more serious things like opening credit cards in secret or covering up a gambling problem. Behaviours that could indicate secret spending are:
- New things start appearing around the house (or disappearing, and reappearing on Facebook marketplace)
- Bills arriving for credit cards you didn’t know about
- Envelopes addressed to your partner with a finance company logo you don’t know anything about
- Your partner is suddenly and spontaneously more generous than usual
- Your partner lends large amounts of money to friends or relatives without talking to you first
- Emotions run high when you bring up money.
It’s more common than you might think. Many of us keep our partners in the dark about money matters because we may be scared or even ashamed of bad financial habits. But being in a relationship where your partner is a secret spender can lead to greater financial problems (hello debt collectors!), stress and unhappiness. Something’s gotta give, and if left unchecked financial infidelity issues could lead to an unhappy ending to your love story.
The course of true love never does run smooth, but if you notice anything concerning be sure to sit down with your partner and work through it sooner rather than later.
For richer, not poorer
It’s amazing just how much closer you can get to someone when you make the effort to align your dreams, hopes, and goals. And two heads may be better than one when it comes to money. When you motivate each other to stay within your budget, you can troubleshoot your financial problems together, and come up with creative ways to work towards your dream lifestyle. Remember, it’s never too late to change your habits.
Here are a few tips that may help you towards your financial goals as a team:
- Have regular money check-ins so you both know how your money (bills, spending, saving, emergency fund, investing) is going and if you’re on track with your goals and budget.
- Do our free Getting Started Course to broaden your understanding of investing in shares together.
- Read financial blogs, tune in to financial podcasts (here are more), or make a date on Tuesday lunchtimes for a cheeky read of our weekly newsletter, The Fry Up.
- There’s nothing sweeter than a cute date night at a workshop on money, honey. There are plenty of in-person workshops on the topic of personal finance, money meet-ups, and investor groups to get involved with.
- Join money or investing-related Facebook groups to chat about money and make new friends as you learn more about money management.
Loving yourself first
The number one relationship in your life should be the one you have with yourself. Be your own hype man and show yourself some love. This could look like making smart money decisions, paying yourself first, or working on your financial education to help set yourself up for a bright and exciting future. If you’re peachy as a singleton, you could use the tips above to level up yourself as a smart, confident, money-savvy catch (or skip the rollercoaster and keep flying solo!).
Whether with a partner or alone, start with honesty and self-reflection to think about how you spend and save money, whether or not you need to upskill your finance skills and check in on how you’re doing money-wise as often as you can. You’re worth the effort.