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How good communication can nurture a financially strong relationship

Money is the number one thing that couples argue about. It plays a huge role in breakups and divorce. For couples who stay together, it causes unnecessary friction that makes life harder for everyone. 

Secret credit cards, mismatched spending habits, and financial inequality are just a few money issues that can trigger arguments and resentment. 

Thankfully, with honesty, openness and a team attitude, many of these issues can be resolved. 

Here’s how good communication can nurture a financially strong relationship.

Regular finance date nights

In his book ‘The Barefoot Investor’, Scott Pape recommends couples have a finance ‘date night’ once a month.

If you want to follow Pape’s advice to a tee, have these meetings weekly for the first five weeks before spreading them out so they become a monthly ritual.

My wife has suffered 10 years of me prattling on about finance stuff, so I think we can skip the first five ‘barefoot date nights’. But even after all these years, there’s still plenty to discuss.

Learning from each other

One of the best things about regular finance date nights is that they encourage you and your partner to learn from each other. 

We learn new things about money all the time, whether we intend to or not. Yet it’s easy to forget about these money lessons once we leave the office and join our families for dinner. 

“You’re allowed to talk about one finance thing before dinner arrives, Tom!” Jane said as we sat in the restaurant at the start of our last money date.

I chose to explain how the Lifetime ISA (LISA) works and discuss whether we should open one.

I told her that you must open one before the age of 40 and you can save up to £4,000 of your own money into it each year until the age of 50. 

The government will top up your contributions by 25%, meaning if you save the full £4,000 you’ll get a lovely £1,000 bonus. 

Repeat this each year and you could retire with a sizeable amount, particularly if you do well on your investment returns.

It’s like a hybrid between a pension and an ISA. I’ve done some work on this, which Jane was delighted to hear about. For some people, combining all three (ISA, pension and LISA) is powerful stuff. And I managed to get all this in before the olives even arrived.

Money management needs to be a team effort

It’s unfair to place the burden of financial management on one person. This is true even if one partner loves finance and the other partner has no interest in managing the money.

I once met a couple who’d lost all their life savings to a conman who said he’d invest it for them and help them get a good return.

The wife had left all financial matters to her husband, and it was him who trusted the fraudster to transform their finances. In her words, she couldn’t blame her husband because she’d taken no interest in the decision-making process.

When working together, one of you might notice something that the other one doesn’t. It could be the smallest of red flags. All it takes is one person saying: “Hang on. Are we sure about this?” It could save you from making the biggest financial mistake of your life. 

The link between money worries and mental health

Although not always the case, men are often the ones to take control and responsibility of the money in the relationship, particularly if they’re the main earner.

According to data from Yolt, 2.3 million men in the UK have had panic attacks as a direct result of money worries, meaning almost 10% of the male population are affected. A further one in seven (14%) said they’d been unable to sleep due to money worries, and over one in ten (12%) said they ignored their finances because it made them feel anxious or depressed.

Mental health problems and money worries can affect you no matter what your gender, but the figures above are certainly alarming.

Financial independence for everyone

A one-sided approach to money can cause one partner to become financially dependent on the other. This can lead to them becoming trapped and unable to leave the relationship, even if they were unhappy.

Data from YouGov shows that one in three women in relationships are financially dependent on their partner. Women who work full-time are less likely to be financially reliant on their partner, but a fifth (21%) are, compared with 7% of their male counterparts.

Preparing for the worst

Good financial communication also ensures that if one person in the relationship passes away, the other can manage their finances with as little stress as possible.

Last year on the Martin Lewis Money Show, the money saving expert issued a warning to couples: “I can’t tell you the number of times - it's generally women but not always - have said [to me] I've lost my husband and I do not know how to deal with finances."

He added: “And I'll always remember one case of a woman who stopped me in the street in tears because her husband had died two months before. She couldn't pay the mortgage because she didn't know where the savings were."

Just a few questions to ask on your next money date:

  • Where are our savings and investments?
  • Where can financial documents be found?
  • Where can passwords be located?
  • Which solicitor needs to be contacted regarding the will?

Our Barnaby Cecil App®  enables you to keep all of this information in one place, which means no hunting around or confusion for our clients’ families if the worst should happen. 

Couples who dream together, stay together

In 6 financial planning tips to help couples build wealth, we talked about diarising your next holiday as soon as you finish your last.

Not only can this be a great way to incentivise smart saving and investment decisions, it can help you nurture your relationship too. 

We believe that couples who dream together, stay together. So, whether you send luxurious RightMove listings to one another when you’re meant to be working, or you spend your monthly date night plotting all the countries you’d like to visit on a map, remember to think big.

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