Couples who report disagreeing about finances once a week are over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who report disagreeing about finances a few times a month.
This from a study of 2,800 couples surveyed in 1987 by the National Survey of Families and Households. In this survey, both husbands and wives were asked, separately, about how often they disagreed with their spouse over chores, in-laws, spending time together, sex and money. These same respondents were then contacted again several years later, in 1992, and asked if they were still married.
The study concluded that money disputes were the best harbingers of divorce. For wives, disagreements over finances and sex were good predictors of divorce, but finance disputes were much stronger predictors. For husbands, financial disagreements were the only type of common disagreement that predicted whether they would get a divorce.
We all know this but, yet, what do we do? We avoid talking about money with our partners! One thing is certain, that’s not the way to make it better…
So here are some steps to take:
- Yup, you guessed it – have a money talk date and, for heaven’s sake, try to make it fun, pair it with your favorite beverage. Chat quarterly at a minimum, more often if money’s tight.
- What to talk about? Your history with money. How did your family manage money – or did they? What are your tendencies – are you a saver or a spender? My ex once said “I’m not going to let the fact that we can’t afford to do something keep us from doing it” – needless to say a big red flag.
- What are your money goals? Be very specific. The more you can get on board with shared goals, the more likelihood of success in reaching them. Dave’s daughter and husband gave us a map of National Parks with a set of pins to mark which ones we’ve visited and the ones on our to-do list – fun!
- Got any money secrets? In 2015, the National Endowment for Financial Education discovered that 33% of Americans who responded to a poll admitted lying to their partners about their finances – yikes!
- Try the three pot system – a joint household account for shared expenses plus a personal account for each partner’s spending money. Same works for credit cards – a household card plus personal cards. I get a lot of questions on how best to merge finances – I’d love to hear what’s worked for you, the reader.
- Lastly, know that what works for you won’t necessarily work for your partner. No surprise that opposites attract – excel sheets aren’t for everyone. Gretchen Rubin, an author and habits expert, says “rebels” rise to a challenge like going on a spending cleanse while “questioners” will need all the facts first. Take her quiz to see where you fall – I’m an “upholder”.
Whatever you do, just start talking!