Money is a touchy subject. People who love each other will suddenly want to feel like scratching each other’s eyes out, or something far more violent, when an argument is about money — or lack thereof.
Honey vs. Money
Filipino couples may be hailed as the most affectionate partners in Asia, with a survey revealing 87% of couples say, “I love you” to one another once a week, and another 68% say it every day. But when money comes into the picture, it’s war, with 46% arguing over it. Although lack of attention (more popularly referred to as the “KSP” syndrome) comes in a close second with 41% quibbling over it, and mobile phone/computer time is a distant third, with 37% sparring over the matter.
It’s an ugly fight, to say the least when you quibble over who spent what and why. The exchange becomes more brutal when one partner or spouse happens to earn more than the other, and that detail gets pointed out. With couples who cannot separate fiery passion with fiery tempers, the outcome can be very destructive.
Some of the unseemly fights over money are avoidable, if only couples learn to talk about it before taking their relationship one step closer to the altar. Unfortunately, most people find talking about money a big hassle, for people who hate the thought of numbers, or unsavory, for people who are too proper for their own good.
It’s About Taking Control
But how do you broach the “touchy” subject of finances? Do you start by saying, “Hey, I love you, but how much do you earn”? Or should you bring in a third party to settle every aspect of finances, from savings and joint accounts to expenses and budgeting?
Dell, a former bank professional and now CFO for a digital marketing firm recommends couples do the crucial talk before engagement. Talk about your future together before announcing wedding plans because and you may just uncover incompatible goals, choices, and commitments, on any number of things, from kids to investments.
The first step toward financial harmony is recognizing the red flags in your relationship, ones that tell you your future spouse is going to get you in a deep, financial mess. Sort this out before you get any deeper into the relationship, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble.
Hunt for the following red flags:
- You’re dating someone who is usually out of work.
Frequent unemployment can also indicate lack of commitment.
- You’re dating someone who is overly critical of your gifts.
It’s the thought that counts, but Dell shares that if your partner makes a negative remark about what you gave them, it’s a sign of future financial disharmony.
- You’re always paying for everything, or your partner insists that you each pay your own.
It’s appropriate for you both to pay for dates and dinners; but it shouldn’t become a habit. Separate bills can mean the other person isn’t willing to combine your financial future together. Why be together if you’re just going to pay for everything, separately?
Taking Financial Responsibility
When you’ve both figured out that the two of you can make it work (and that you do love each other, because that’s a huge part of this couple equation), you can get down to the nitty gritty: the financial planning and the rules.
In Dell’s experience, it’s best to not elect one spouse as the CFO. Both of you should take responsibility for the money, from expenses to investments. While a joint account works for some couples, it’s also ideal to have separate bank accounts.
Your separate bank account will allow you to spend for whatever you need to buy, without going through a big discussion with your significant other. Keep something for yourself, Dell recommends, and avoid squabbling over the expensive, for example, gaming equipment or designer bag.
The one mistake couples can make with expenses is deprivation. If you have been used to buying, for example, antique first edition books, and you take from the joint account, expect a skirmish with the spouse. Instead of deprivation, Dell suggests having a budget for such expenses. Compromise, in a word.
Looking to the Future — in the Same Direction
Compromise. When you commit to living your life with someone else, for better or worse, in sickness and in health … you learn to compromise. If you’re not willing to do that with the person, then you’re with the wrong partner, mate; or you’re just a lone wolf.
For married couples, one of the financial sacrifices one makes is parting with a portion of one’s income. Dell suggests that couples should prioritize home ownership by putting away 20%, each. If you earn more, 30% each would allow you to reach your goal faster.
Love’s great. Love’s grand. But if you haven’t had the money talk, love’s going to turn on you, making you a miserable curmudgeon. Don’t shy away from talking about finances. Get in there, learn about each one’s ideas and goals, and avoid financial disharmony.
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Joy has been a vegan for over 20 years. She's done a wide range of stories for magazines, from music and movies to business and culture matters. She continues to write professionally to this day — like, right this very minute.