Love and money don’t always get along.
Couples don’t like to talk about it. It’s awkward or stressful. Arguments about money are one of the best predictors of divorce, according to a 2009 study of 2,800 couples.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. When the Massachusetts Credit Union League recently surveyed more than 200 people about their financial communication habits with their significant other, it found that 75 percent of survey respondents said they communicate regularly with their partner about finances, and 80 percent said they trust their partner with their finances.
Of course, the results came from people who chose to complete the survey, so that may not accurately reflect the population as a whole. Still, it’s an indication that there can be romance after the bottom line.
One trick is finding the right time to talk about the bottom line.
Couples bring up finances when it’s time to pay a bill, or when they’re eating dinner or going to bed, says David Bach, the author of “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” “There’s usually a family CFO, but I think it’s important for both people to sit down once a month [and have] a one-hour date night, a money date.”
In addition to monthly money dates, Bach advises couples to plan a “financial anniversary date,” when they can review finances from the previous year and set goals for the next year.
Another trick is to build your financial plans together.
“Money’s been such a taboo topic to talk about for years,” says Carolyn Washburn, a family consumer science agent at Utah State University in Logan who teaches a weekly marriage enrichment workshop. But when couples finally do talk about it, “it strengthens their relationship.”
She suggests that couples sit down and build a budget together to start communicating about finances.
The more money one makes, the more trust there seems to be. The credit union survey found that 91 percent of respondents who earned at least $150,000 said they trusted their partner with finances; only two-thirds of couples earning between $25,000 and $50,000 did.
Since many couples are making less money after the Great Recession, are they arguing more? Maybe.
Ms. Washburn says some of the couples she works with are being driven apart by financial distress. But, they’re “so in debt they can’t even afford to get divorced.”
But Mr. Bach says that maybe the downturn has been good for couples, because it’s made them talk to each other about money.
“I think a lot of things are improving,” he says. “I think the recession has inspired and forced the American family to get its finances together.”