10 Tips For Talking Money With Your Spouse

couple paying bills together

Money can't buy love, but there's no arguing that it plays an important role in relationships. It provides leisure and security, comfort and necessities.

But money can also come at the expense of a marriage, leading to fights and even divorce. According to The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language, a new must-read from married financial experts Scott and Bethany Palmer (aka "The Money Couple"), 70 percent of divorced couples largely attribute their split to financial problems. All couples fight about money — even if they have plenty of it. It's because each spouse has his or her own approach to finances, what the Palmers call a "Money Personality," and as you know, opposites often attract.

The solution? Identifying and understanding each partner's unique money personality to better work together as a financial team. Here are 10 tips to get started. Trust us, it'll pay off.

1) Figure out your Money Personality.
Your Money Personality developed long before you got married. The 5 Money Personalities helps each spouse identify their Primary and Secondary Money Personalities among the options of Spender, Saver, Security Seeker, Risk Taker and Flyer. Think back to your first paycheck. Did you sock it away in a savings account or did you invest half in a high-stakes investment your I-banker friend told you about? Did you use it for daily expenses or treat yourself to new clothes? Once you and your partner know your Money Personalities, you can work to build a stronger Money Relationship, the Palmer-coined term for the "daily decisions you make as a couple in which money is involved." In other words, your Money Relationship is more than a balanced budget and savings plan.

2) Try viewing money from your spouse's perspective.
Once you and your spouse have identified your own unique Primary and Secondary Money Personalities, it's time to walk, well spend, a mile in each other's shoes. Make sure you take the other perspective with empathy instead of judgment. It's a way of better understanding your partner's views on money, so you can find middle ground in your Money Relationship. Bonus: Tell your spouse one thing you appreciate about his or her approach to money. 

3) Work toward a stronger Money Relationship every day.
You don't get a strong body by working out once a month. The same goes for your Money Relationship. Your Money Personality is the emotional part of every financial decision you make, whether it's investing in the stock market or buying generic vs. name-brand cereal. Making sense of Money Personalities — yours and your partner's — is the key to building a stronger Money Relationship as a couple. It's also a daily exercise in communication.

4) Understand that finances are emotional.
This may seem redundant, but it's so important: Your budget and Money Relationship are not the same thing. Frankly, the budget part consisting of numbers and decimal points is much easier to make sense of! When discussing money, it's important to acknowledge the emotional reasons for financial decisions. A careless spender or pennypinching partner isn't always rational. They do what they do to meet some need, usually with good intentions.

5) Communicate, communicate, communicate.
"We've never seen a couple break up over their 401k performance," the Palmers write. "What kills relationships is miscommunication and misunderstanding." And finances leave a lot of room for misunderstanding, in addition to being fraught with emotional baggage. When spouses have wildly different Money Personalities, it can be easy for them to just assume the other is miserly or irresponsible. It's important to talk openly and regularly about your Money Relationship —what's working, what's not, and how it can be changed.

6) Ask yourself: What's this money argument really about?
When you fight about money, you're not just arguing over dollars and cents. Deeper relationship issues like trust, respect and connection are at the root. One spouse isn't angry that the other has a $10 per day coffee habit. He or she may be more troubled that the other partner doesn't share the responsibility of cutting back on weekly spending. Figure out what fights are really about and work to address the problem. 

7) Come clean about financial infidelity — and figure out why it happens.
Even if you only have eyes for your partner, you're probably guilty of financial infidelity — being less than honest about money. Maybe you have a secret stash of bills or tell a white lie about how much something cost in order to avoid an argument. Whatever the case, you can't afford to let distrust ruin your relationship. Come clean about financial infidelity and don't let it happen again. Most importantly, figure out the real reason why you weren't honest in the first place. Take the quiz: Are You Financially Unfaithful?

8) Don't put one person in control of finances.
One guaranteed path to financial infidelity: putting one person in charge of finances. Sure, one partner is inevitably better at math than the other. One is better at remembering the online banking passwords. No matter how you split the financial load, you're both adults with shared responsibility. Both of you need to know about — and maintain control over — the money coming in and going out of your accounts.

9) Check in on your Money Relationship each month.
The 5 Money Personalities encourages couples to have a monthly Money Huddle, which is not to be confused with a bookkeeping session. Instead of paying bills together or one partner filling the other in, it's an open conversation about shared finances and goals. Once you and your partner are on the same page about numbers, it's time to talk emotions. How do you feel about your finances?

10) Dream together.
Money can lead to fights. But it also pays for vacations, college education, a home of your own and many wonderful life experiences. Use financial conversations to connect your daily money decisions to your future. What are you saving for as a family? What do your finances have to do with your spiritual and emotional wealth? How can your money be spent — or saved — to make your life richer?

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