Why Most Couples Can’t Agree On Finances

Most couples can't agree on finances because they never have a conversation about them.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

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Finances (or lack thereof) are on everyone’s minds these days. The stress of inflation and possible job loss is taking a toll on all Americans. But the good news is that married couples (or those in serious relationships) can ease at least some of that pressure by having frank financial chats. 

That’s definitely easier said than done. However, openly discussing finances is a vital part of any healthy relationship. And the data shows that when couples aren’t willing to talk about money, that often leads to break-ups or divorces.

According to CNBC, “Among women, more than 20% of marriages that end in divorce last about 10 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Part of the reason those relationships end may be due to a lack of communication on many fronts.” And a lack of communication about money falls firmly in that problem area.

In fact, a new survey highlighted how volatile the topic of finances is in a relationship. Out of the couples surveyed, 64% believed they were “financially incompatible” with their partner. That’s not good news.

But it gets worse. A stunning 45% of respondents said they hid purchases from their significant other. That behavior has a term – financial infidelity.

So that leaves a lingering question. How do you prevent your relationship from heading down the same path? The good news is that there are some steps that couples can take to improve their financial communication.

However, the kicker is that no talk about money will be fun. And conversations may well head into the uncomfortable zone. They are vitally important, though, and worth powering through. 

No matter where you are on your relationship journey, the first thing to do is set a distraction-free time for a serious conversation. Make sure it is a location that invites calm. And don’t forget to find a convenient time; so one half doesn’t enter into the chat already feeling a bit put out after rescheduling an event. 

Newly married couples, or those just deciding to combine finances, will want to be open and honest about their individual finances. Establishing a foundation of trust starts with this simple (albeit challenging) step. Afterward, you can start to build a plan for the future.

Then decide what kinds of accounts you will have and ensure full access to any joint accounts. Figure out how to split various financial obligations and responsibility for each bill. But this step doesn’t just apply to newer couples.

Those married couples who have been together for years may want to have a similar conversation. After which, it is critical to find ways to maximize earnings. Decide how much to put into savings, retirement, or get stashed away from a dream trip.

And couples nearing retirement aren’t exempt from conversations about finances. It may be even more important to get all the various ducks in a row at this stage in life. Take the time to discuss factors like paying down debt, retirement savings, and even retirement age.