How To Help A Partner Who Is “Bad” With Money
If you think financial fights are reserved for our parents or married people juggling home loans, think again: money niggles crop up regardless of age or stage in life.
An American study, found that a third of millennials in relationships fought about money at least once per week, compared to 15 percent of Gen Xers and only 7 percent of Baby Boomers.
Why do other generations seem to have a handle on money in their relationship, while we’re far from nailing it?
Perhaps it’s because of one key incompatibility: one partner is the saver and the other is the spender.
According to the TD Bank report, 83% of millennials believe their partner overspends on things like food, entertainment and hobbies.
When one person lives week to week, spending flippantly and the other is more savings savvy, is it any wonder our relationships suffer?
I totally relate to this issue. I’m the saver and my partner is the spender. He doesn’t plan, he spends needlessly and it drives me up the wall. The frustration I feel knowing he could be saving huge weekly amounts just by making his lunches at home often ends in an explosion.
Sometimes I’ll hold back and remind myself this isn’t my issue, it’s his hard earned cash and he can spend it anyway he likes.
But while it may seem ridiculous to get stressed over whether he makes a ham sandwich or buys a burger and chips but to me it highlights potential problems for the future. Will we ever have that house? Will we ever be able to afford kids and give them the things we think they need?
Life and Relationship Coach Megan Luscombe believes when two people aren’t on the same page with money matters, it can create fundamental relationship problems.
“Difficulties that arise from this imbalance can be jealousy, control and resentment,” she says. “When one person is good with money, they can flaunt it and force their partner to adopt their strategies. The person that isn’t so good with it can start resenting their partner and the cycle of never ending fights and tension continues.”
So how can the “saver” and the “spender” find ways to meet in the middle?
If your partner has bad money habits
Bobbi Rebell, author of How to Be A Financial Grown Up, says before losing your cool, hit pause and observe your partner’s relationship with money.
“Before you approach your partner about their money habit, take a step back and take note of what they spend money on. Learn who they are and what their values are. Maybe ask yourself two questions; do they know better – are their poor decisions around money deliberate? Or do they honestly not understand money management?”
If the answer to the first question is “yes”, Bobbi suggests taking it slow – and don’t expect to ‘change’ your partner.
“If they’re really out of their depth with money then give them a break. Approach gently and don’t have a big talk that could make them defensive,” Bobbi suggests. “The key is waiting for opportunities to weave in small suggestions, which could lead to bigger more important discussions.”
These opportunities could be suggesting cheaper places to eat when deciding on a restaurant, or casually mentioning a circumstance where you didn’t give in to a temptation to spend because you’re saving for something. Bobbi says you’ll learn a lot from their reactions and what they say.
After this ‘step back and observe approach’, communication should also be high on the list if you want to strengthen the relationship.
Megan says, “Talking about future goals is important, so is working towards objectives. It’s not about forcing your partner to conform to your ways of saving; it’s about opening up dialogue in a positive manner.”
She suggests saying things like, “I’d really like us to save for a, b, c, how can we work together to make this happen?” It’s inclusive and non-judgemental questions like this that will open up lines of communication.
If you’re the ‘bad with money’ partner
And what if you’re the person with the money issue?
Megan says to remember your partner is coming from a place of compassion and empathy, not aggression.
“Explain to your partner how you need them to talk to you about money. Be honest about what you want. Money will always be a concern for couple as life is expensive, so it’s important these conversations are tackled and dealt with in effective ways from the beginning,” Megan says.
Apart from essential discussions, there are also practical ways we can alleviate some of the stress caused by the situation.
It may seem ironic to consider a joint account but Bobbi reckons this is important – as part of being in a long-term committed relationship is about sharing financial responsibility.
“Both of you should know what’s going on in that account – even if one person takes care of the bills,” she says. “But both partners don’t need to be in charge.”
She tells us that actually it works pretty well when one person takes the reins.
“The other partner can still have their slush fund for the fun stuff but the argument inducing decisions will be taken care of with the joint account. Just make sure you keep everything transparent with the partner.”
Megan suggests working with a money coach can help couples with financial issues.
“Having regular catch ups about your savings and goals and checking in with someone about where you’re at as a couple financially can really keep you on track,” she says. “Just make sure you are willing, open and honest about your money situation. You are a team, so work together as you would any other issue.”
A published freelance writer from print to online, Katy’s passion is honest authentic writing. From the mundane experience to a sensational observation, Katy always finds a way to voice what she sees. Relatable and quirky, she writes with warmth and familiarity. She also loves lists, matching socks and edamame beans.