Money and love.
Or perhaps romantics would reverse the order as love and money.
Regardless, experts say they potentially are an explosive mix, and that financial stress causes problems for many couples.
To that end, and with Valentine’s Day about two weeks away, a rep of financial security expert Pamela Yellen of New Mexico pumped out a news release on the subject. Included were six tips to help couples improve their communication about money.
The advice is good, and what follows are her tips. (For a link to her website, click here.)
(1) Recognize that money is an emotional issue – For many men who are wired to be providers, money brings up issues of self-worth, so they take financial conflict to heart. For many women, money represents security, so problems or disputes can bring anxiety and even fear about survival.
Tip: Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and not rushed to start talking about money issues.
(2) Talk, talk and talk some more about your finances together – As in most issues within a relationship, good communication is vital.
Tip: Set goals together and track your progress.
(3) Agree on how to divide your money – If you’ve been together for years and have stumbled along without a clear understanding and agreement about this area, it’s never too late to start.
Tip: Start now. Common topics to cover include individual discretionary spending, household expenses, retirement savings and extended family responsibilities.
(4) Taking on too much debt – Couples who live within their means tend to be the happiest, while those with too much debt tend to fight more often and be more stressed about their money.
Tip: Instead of constantly talking about the burden of your debt, talk to each other about your financial goals — where you’d really like to be and how you’ll get there. Facing your debt as a team can strengthen your relationship.
(5) Never engage in financial infidelity – Financial cheating can be devastating. One study found that one-third of couples with combined finances had not been completely honest about financial issues with their partner.
Tip: If you haven’t been fully honest regarding finances, now is the time to clean it up. Begin the conversation with something like, “I know that neither of us is perfect when it comes to money. Our relationship is important to me, so I want to make sure we have a foundation of honesty about our finances.” No matter what comes up, stay calm and avoid judgment, and focus on positive solutions going forward.
(6) Understand and acknowledge your different spending habits – People tend to look for a spouse who looks, sounds and acts as they do — except when it comes to money. It turns out that penny-pinchers tend to marry reckless spenders, and, as a result, they report unhappier marriages than couples who have similar spending habits.
Tip: Seek to understand rather than correct each other. If something in your partner’s attitude bothers you, tell him or her how you feel and why. See if you can find compromise, but don’t try to “fix” your partner.
And on that note: Can anyone spot me a couple hundred? (Just kidding.)