Can Love and Money Mix Well?

by Feb 1, 2021Personal Finance

You may have read it before:

  • The number 1 cause of divorces is related to money (Source: Dave Ramsey et al).
  • Around 80% of couples fight about money (Source: Money Magazine).
  • Over 90% of couples avoid talking about finances (Amex).
  • Only 43% of couples discuss finances before marriage (Amex)

It’s certainly a delicate topic, but your fearless co-founders will bravely face this touchy subject in honor of Valentine’s Day. 

After all, not all couples argue about money. Arguably, the happiest couples are those who have a healthy relationship with finances, and openly talk about them. 

Let’s go over 10 tips to improve your love relationship… with money. 

1. Talk 

What doesn’t get scheduled, often gets ignored. 

That may be the reason why your desk is a mess, you don’t exercise as much as you should, and you don’t talk about money as a couple. 

And it’s even easier to ignore because it’s such a sensitive topic. 

The problem is that in many couples, one person is in charge of financial matters, such as self-education and investing, and the other ignores them or worse, hates them. 

The risk is that if the “money-savvy person” dies, the “money-ignorant person” might be in deep trouble. He or she may have no clue how to access accounts, what is in said accounts, and how to manage them. 

So consider scheduling time to talk about it, even if it’s only 1 hour per month. Topics can include income, expenses, debt, insurance, investing, major purchases, spending habits, net worth, allowances for kids, etc. You also may want to discuss more personal topics, such as your personal feelings and philosophy about money. 

2. Style 

On that note, it’s important to identify your own money style and talk about it openly. Almost 75% of people have a money management style that is different from their partner’s (Ameriprise). 

Based on deep-rooted beliefs and emotions, one partner can have a scarcity mentality, or be a compulsive saver, while the other is generous to a fault. Ideally, these powerful, sometimes unconscious traits, should be discussed before marriage. If not, they should be discussed openly and respectfully after the fact. 

3. Joint 

The never-ending debate is: should you have a joint checking account, or separate accounts? 

To some, a joint account creates a sense of unity and is the ultimate proof of eternal bliss. To others, separate accounts give each partner their independence, which is also important in a relationship. 

So what should you do? We don’t claim to have the answer. Every couple is different. Talk about it candidly and see what’s best for your personal situation. 

4. Accounting 

Consider meeting with a financial advisor or your accountant, at least yearly, to review your overall financial situation, including taxes. Knowing your net worth is also something to be aware of. 

5. Honesty 

You may have heard about one partner buying a pair of shoes every week, or gambling, or splurging, behind the other partner’s back. 

When the truth is discovered, it can have catastrophic consequences. 

6. Strengths 

Also talk about your strengths and interests. If one partner loves math and the beauty of a perfectly balanced checkbook, then put those skills to good use. If one partner is a born negotiator, then this is who should negotiate your next car. 

Just because one partner loves making money and the other loves spending money doesn’t mean you’re incompatible. A healthy blend of the two traits may be a recipe for financial success. 

7. Priorities 

Be clear about your priorities. If one partner is focused on having a comfortable, well-decorated home with paintings and sculptures from local artists, while the other is obsessed with saving and investing for retirement, it can lead to a big disconnect. 

What if one partner is a wine connoisseur, while the other only drinks soy milk? 

What if one partner is a foodie who loves eating at the finest restaurants, while the other is content with pizza 7 days a week? 

What if one partner loves camping, while the other prefers staying at the Ritz? 

It’s not a matter of who’s right or wrong here. There is nothing wrong with any of those preferences. 

The beauty of it is that those two seemingly opposite views are not mutually exclusive. You can have both! But it requires an open discussion and mutual understanding. 

8. Separate 

Consider the idea of having two separate spending budgets. In another blog post, we suggested allocating 10% of your income to “fun.” 

So if you agree with this amount, you could, for example, allocate 3% to each partner, and 4% to you as a couple. The numbers are not as important as the concept. Choose what makes sense for your personal situation. 

9. Kids 

Children are commonly a topic of discussion in a couple: allowances, first car, college etc. However, kids are rarely directly involved in the conversation. 

Depending on their age, you could have them involved in conversations about which charities to donate to, or which organization to donate time to, or why saving is so important. 

Discuss critical topics they need to know about. The conversations you have about financial matters may have an impact for the rest of their lives. You have a profound role in their financial education, which they will certainly not receive in school. 

10. Protection 

Make sure that you are fully protected: health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, liability insurance – and more – may all sound expensive. Yet not having them can lead to financial ruin and a world of pain. 

As a reminder, we are not financial advisors or marriage counselors… so don’t hesitate to consult a professional if you need help. 

Whatever you do, have a friendly, open conversation. Schedule the time to do it. Pour yourself some tea or coffee, put your feet up, and start a dialogue. After all, if you’re going to grow old together, and retire together, it’s critical that you are on the same page so your financial lives and your financial goals are a match.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit