Dr. Daniel Crosby, Chief Behavioral Officer
“Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money.” – Jackie Mason
Have you had a disagreement with a loved one recently about money? If so, you’re hardly alone. An American Express survey found money took the top worry spot among married couples (33%), far outpacing the second-place intimacy (11%), children (9%), and troubles with in-laws (4%).
Few things do more to induce deeply felt emotions and opinions than talking about love or money but combine them and you have a regular recipe for potential disaster. It’s no wonder then that money troubles are consistently cited as the number one cause of divorce. But as fraught as romance and remuneration can be, they lose some of their negative sting once we are better able to understand the sources of the disagreement and confusion around the topic.
Let’s consider some of the research on the topic and see what solutions we can derive from these findings:
Problem: We’re not talking about it - A survey conducted by American Express found that just 43% of us are talking about money at all before marriage. Even more shocking, 12% of married couples say they have never once in their marriage discussed their financial lives.
Solution: Money is the last thing that a “twitterpated” (to use Bambi’s word) couple wants to think about but it’s an essential part of making love last. Ensure that you discuss finances with your partner before marriage and set regular times to discuss it once you are together.
Problem: We’re not being honest about it - One survey found that nearly one in three people (31%) lie to their partners about their financial realities. Ouch! A Fidelity study found 20% of married adults have a secret debt and that just over 5% have a financial account that they hide from their partner. While lies may provide some short-term relief from a problem situation, they tend to be revealed in time and compound in thorniness.
Solution: Tell the truth, even when it hurts. All couples understand that honesty is the bedrock of a good partnership and telling the truth about money is no exception to that rule.
Problem: Even when we talk, we talk over each other – One study found that among those who are talking about money, 13% say they fight about money a number of times each month. The largest source of disagreement was around financial priorities. An even more disturbing finding by TD Bank is Millennial couples fight the most of any generation, with 36% reporting that they fight about finances every single week.
Solution: A new branch of psychology, called Financial Therapy, has emerged in recent years to take on the problems identified in this piece. Money brings with it a special set of emotional triggers and couples may be well served to seek out professionals with dual expertise in both money and mental health.
In order for us to have any shot at financial wellbeing, we must begin from a foundation of honesty, mutual respect, and clear lines of communication. Once this base is in place, we can begin to work toward a deeper understanding of our shared and divergent values around money as a couple. In next month’s post, I’ll be furthering this work around love and money by sharing some research I did last year around the five pillars of money connection and discussing what they mean for you and your partner. Until then, be kind, be honest, and keep talking.
The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Brinker Capital, Inc., a registered investment advisor.
Money Magazine Survey with Mathew Greenwald & Associates (2006)