What makes a couple successful in their financial relationship? Ameriprise Financial surveyed over 1,500 couples (those married or living together for at least six months) to learn about their money conversations and how they make decisions. The results revealed eight ways you can improve the financial health of your relationship:
1. Understand your partner’s money mindset. It’s normal to have differing views and habits about money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t agree on your financial goals. Couples who report being on the same page financially work to understand their partner’s approach to money and keep the lines of communication open.
2. Make finances a priority and don’t give up. Couples who are willing to have the hard conversations and who work together to find financial harmony will reap the benefits over time. As you might expect, the study found that couples who had been together longer tend to have better communication and are on the same page when it comes to financial matters.
3. Agree on financial goals. It’s tough to pool your money with someone who overspends or who isn’t willing to save for the vacation you’ve always dreamed about. Sharing financial goals does bring you closer together-or at least it’s one less thing to argue about. To make it easier to save, challenge yourselves to add a timeframe to each goal so you know what you’re working toward first.
4. Assign and accept financial roles and responsibilities. Most couples split up tasks such as paying bills or monitoring investments. Clear responsibilities allow you to hold one another accountable without worrying if the cable bill was paid. However, be sure to work together on tasks such as retirement planning that requires close collaboration.
5. Invest in your future together. Make it a priority to set aside a portion of your earnings for short- and long-term goals, including retirement. Know how much you collectively have in retirement savings-a surprising 23 percent of couples are unsure of this number. If you have kids, talk about how much you’d like to contribute to their college expenses so you can save accordingly.
6. Set a spending limit. Spending habits were the leading cause of contention for couples. Consider setting a spending limit to ensure you’re on the same page as your partner regarding large expenditures. On average, couples said a purchase over $400 should trigger a discussion.
7. Understand that disagreeing is okay. According to the Ameriprise study, even couples who say they’re in financial harmony disagree on financial matters. What’s important isn’t that the partners don’t always agree, but that 82 percent resolve their issues and move on.
8. Enlist a professional to solidify your financial plan. When you need an objective opinion – or a deciding vote – meet with a financial advisor. Together the three of you can create a financial plan that meets your specific needs as a couple.
Ultimately, it feels good when you are in sync with your partner regarding financial decisions and can work together toward managing your finances. Couples who actively work on improving their financial relationship will likely be less frustrated over money matters and may even feel better about their relationship overall.
Scott D. Serfass, CFP®, CRPC®, CDFA™, CLU®, ChFC® is a financial advisor and senior partner of Serfass, Phillips & Associates, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. His team specializes in helping people retire confidently and develop a plan to effectively share wealth across multiple generations. Throughout his career, he has witnessed many families continue to grow despite global and economic turmoil. This experience and research paved the way for his book, Family Success.