Straight Talk About Finances: Conversations Every Couple Ought to Have

Posted on December 30, 2013 by VITAL WorkLife

Young couple reviewing finances in kitchenA recent study showed that financial disagreements between couples were a greater predictor of divorce and separation than other common types of disagreements, such as division of household labor, amount of time spent together, sex, religion or disciplining children.

  • A National Survey of Families and Households found that disagreement about money is by far the top predictor of divorce.
  • A 2012 survey from Harris International found that nearly half of currently divorced or separated U.S. adults (48%) said they wish they had spent more time discussing finances before getting married.
  • A survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) revealed that 68% of respondents had negative attitudes about discussing money with their fiancés.

"Conversations about money can be difficult—particularly when couples have no idea how much money is coming in or going out each month," says Jody Bertram, senior consultant for VITAL WorkLife. "How do you resolve an argument about what's 'wanted' versus 'needed' when you have no idea where your finances stand?"

A survey by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) indicates that financial arguments most often are over differing opinions of "needs" versus "wants," with 58% of those who argue about money identifying this issue as the most common cause of their arguments.

Tips for Making a Budget—And Living Within it

Start with the Facts: Before you can make a budget, you have to know how much money you have coming in, how much money you have going out and where the money you spend is going.

Set Goals: Decide what you want to do with your money. Do you want to pay off debts or student loans? Do you want to buy a house? Are you planning to save for a new car or additional education? Write down your goals and your strategy for achieving these goals.

Create a Budget: Based on the amount of money you have to spend, put aside enough money to pay all your bills. See where bills can be adjusted. You both feel you need cable and Internet, but could you give up premium channels? Once bills are covered, how much money do you want to save each month? Can you afford investments? If so, which ones? Of the remaining amount available, how much can each person—or you as a couple—afford to spend on clothes, entertainment, etc.?

Be Honest: Make sure your budget includes money to cover the things you really can't live without. For example, if you know you're going to buy a latte every day, make sure there's money in the budget for them. You may decide to reduce the number you drink or take money from somewhere else in the budget but you don't want to set yourself up for "financial infidelity," or lying to your partner about your money is going.

The AICPA survey found that three in 10 adults who are married or living with a partner have engaged in at least one potentially deceitful behavior related to their finances. "It's better to stand up for what you want than lie to get it," notes Bertram. "You work hard for your money, and you want to get the most from it."

Track & Talk About Results: It's not enough to make a budget and hope for the best. You need to set aside time at least once a week in the early stages (and once a month after you've got your spending on track) to talk about money and finances.

"Look at where your money has gone since the last time you talked," says Bertram. "Fine-tune your budget and reexamine your goals in light of new events."

What if, after talking about money, you and your spouse or partner still can't resolve your money differences? Bertram suggests calling and/or making an appointment to see an EAP counselor.

Can't Agree About Money?

How Your EAP Benefit Can Help

Money is such a taboo subject that many couples assume they're the only ones having financial difficulties," notes Bertram. "If you're stuck in a cycle of guilt and shame or anger and resentment over money issues, talking to an unbiased third party can provide a tremendous sense of relief."

Your EAP benefit includes free and confidential professional support services by calling 800.383.1908. It includes a free, confidential phone consultation with one of our financial counselors, who can help you find possible causes and solutions to your financial problems. There are many options to consider when figuring out how to best address financial questions or issues, or manage your debt. Most times you want to do a combination of options to help you accomplish your goal. Areas where we can help include:

  • Budgeting, starting with the basics for your personal or family budget
  • Financial planning through a free 30 minute consultation with a Certified Financial Planner in our network and discounts for ongoing work with them
  • Debt management programs to possibly consolidate your debt into one lower monthly payment, while learning ways to improve your financial health

More information is available on your Member Website. Or, simply call 800.383.1908—any time of the day or night—for a free, confidential consultation with one of our master's- and doctorate-level counselors can help you evaluate any issues you or a family member is facing over the phone. We can also schedule free face-to-face counseling at a time and place that's convenient for you.

Pathways to Well Being call VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App

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