Originally posted on the CUNA Financial Resource Center. Written by Monica Steinisch.
Money ranks high on the list of reasons partners fight or split up. In any marriage, even one where both partners manage money similarly, family finances create conflict at least occasionally. But when one spouse is a saver and the other is a spender, financial disagreements can be frequent, emotional, and divisive.
If you and your partner seem to be polar opposites when it comes to money attitudes, don’t give up hope of a truce. Experts say opposite money personalities actually can complement each other: Savers keep spenders out of the poor house while spenders encourage savers to enjoy themselves now and then. Of course, getting to a balanced approach to the family finances requires compromise and communication.
Understanding your partner's money personality
Your money personality—how you feel about money and the way you manage it—is a product of your upbringing and your life experiences. It was formed over many years and is unlikely to change significantly after you become an adult. Couples who understand this also understand that trying to convert one’s spouse is an exercise in futility. Instead, work on a compromise.
Here are some things counselors say couples should do to reduce conflict and to reach their financial goals.
It's important that you talk about your finances. Throughout your discussions, remain open-minded rather than insisting that your partner do things your way. As you talk, make agreements to compromise. An agreement gives you the right to get your partner back on track if he or she veers from what was agreed upon.
Set goals together
It's crucial that couples set common goals. First, make separate wish lists and then, together, rank the items you both feel are most important. Some goals should be at or near the top of every couple's list. These include paying off nonmortgage debt and saving for retirement. Revisit your goals at least annually and make adjustments based on changing priorities and finances.
Maintain individual accounts
One solution that works for many couples is to have a joint account as well as personal accounts for each partner. Use the joint account to pay household expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, and car and home repairs. If there's money left over, split it into personal no-questions-asked accounts. Use the money from these accounts for individual wish-list goals. For a spender, that might mean paying for a dream vacation. For a saver, it could mean beefing up an IRA (individual retirement account).
Check in with each other at least once a month—more if there have been problems—to re-evaluate and, if financial circumstances warrant, change the discretionary spending amounts. For the joint account, let the person who's good at money handle the bills, but sit down together to go over them regularly.
Get professional help
If you and your spouse reach an impasse, find a couple’s counselor or a financial planner to help you move forward.
For financial planning assistance or money management counseling, contact the professionals at your credit union. You also can find a nonprofit, accredited credit counseling agency through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
For couple’s counseling, check with your health plan or employee assistance program (EAP) to see if it covers counseling and to find a qualified, participating professional.
As you narrow the gap between your money management styles, remember that you and your partner are a team. For couples at opposite ends of the spender-saver spectrum, that means each partner has to inch his or her way closer to the center.