Is Financial Incompatibility a Deal Breaker for a Happy Relationship?

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By Tracy Scott

Do you think you’ve found “the one”? Shared beliefs, interests, and a contagious optimism are just a few of the reasons you fell in love. There’s only one problem. Your partner’s attitude about money is setting off alarm bells in your head about financial incompatibility, while your heart is telling you to ignore them.

Writing off excessive spending or extreme frugality as a personality quirk can be costly, especially when your financial future is at stake. When you have similar attitudes about money, achieving financial goals is less of a struggle.

While financial incompatibility shouldn’t be assumed based on a few questionable money choices, dig deeper before deciding if you’re a money mismatch.

It’s necessary for you to get on the same page before you combine finances with your partner. This may take more than one conversation and should include a few frank discussions about your income, debts, and plans for retirement.

Here are a few conversation starters for couples dreading the money talk.

Tell me about your dream lifestyle.

Prior discussions about your future likely included where you wanted to live, how many children you wanted to have, and possible career changes. But this one will be different. This conversation needs to uncover the costs associated with those dreams. So, if you’ve talked about moving across the country or having children, now is the time to talk about the financial consequences of doing such things. Don’t forget to touch on how these decisions will affect your ability to live your dream retirement lifestyle.

 How much debt do you have?

Since nearly two-thirds of all marriages start with at least one partner in debt, asking this question before you tie the knot might help you set realistic financial expectations and goals as a couple. For example, if your partner has $25k in student loan debt and you want to buy a home in the next 18 months, you’ll both need to agree on a plan to make it happen. Don’t limit discussions to credit card debts. Your partner may owe money to relatives or friends, so ask.

Do you enjoy paying bills?

This isn’t a loaded question. Some people like the responsibility of paying bills. You’ll want to know which one of you will have the primary (but shared) responsibility for organizing your finances.

How important is it for you to be debt-free?

Your partner’s answer might surprise you.  While you intend to stay debt-free, except for a future mortgage, your partner might have a strong desire to drive a new car every two years. As with many relationship issues, a compromise might be necessary to curtail financial incompatibility. When you agree on your financial goals, you may discover that a perpetual car lease works in a two-income household.

Would you describe yourself as more of a spender or a saver?

Identifying a general spending philosophy is one of the best ways for the two of you to understand each other’s view of money management. If you have different opinions, work on a mutually agreeable financial plan.

Financial compatibility in a relationship might mean less money-related disagreements and help lay the foundation for a stable financial future. Even if you and your partner disagree today, continue your conversations about money. As long as open communication and a willingness to make smart financial compromises remains part of the process, being a financial twin isn’t necessary.

If you and your partner are ready to join accounts, we make it easy to start the process online. Visit our Checking Accounts page to get started.