Talking about money with your partner
3 MIN READ
Talking about money with your partner isn’t always easy.
The thought of sharing what we spend money on and how much we spend can make us anxious.
But experts agree that it’s important to find healthy ways to ‘talk money’ in a relationship in order to build trust.
In the early stages of a relationship
When a relationship is just beginning, your discussions about money may be limited to who’s going to pay for a meal, the night out or an upcoming break abroad (if this is you then you want to read Nadia El Ferdaoussi’s 5 tips to save money & travel on a budget).
At this stage, your finances are still separate, you have your own individual ways of managing your money and joint expenses are minimal.
Clodagh is in her 20s and although she’s seeing someone she says they are not in a long-term relationship.
‘Right now I’m like what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. I’d feel that way even if he made 10 times what I made,’ she says.
When it becomes a long-term relationship
When a relationship becomes more long-term, it’s time to have an open chat about how much you both earn and how you manage your finances.
Elaine and her boyfriend live in their separate family homes and hope to save a deposit for a home. They’ve been together long enough now to discover that they have very different attitudes to money.
‘He’s really good at saving,’ she says. ‘I think he gets a thrill out of looking at his account and having money in it whereas if I see money I think how can I spend it?’
It’s very common to discover that your partner thinks and feels about money differently.
Tip 1: Respect your differences and talk things through to agree rules for spending and saving.
When you’re both saving for a common goal
Regular money chats are a good way to decide what your joint goals are and to agree a plan to get there.
Grainne and her boyfriend lived together while they were abroad and since coming moving home to Ireland have started saving for a deposit for a mortgage.
‘I look after everything moneywise,’ Grainne says. When they were abroad she discovered that her partner ‘wasn’t great with money’ and he sometimes didn’t have his half of the rent when it was due.
‘So we decided we’d have a joint account and I’d be the one to manage the day-to-day money,’ Grainne says.
It’s quite common for a couple to decide that one partner manages the money according to rules that both of them agree on.
Grainne and her boyfriend decide on a set amount each week that they will spend separately.
‘Our salaries go into the joint account. We try to live off just the one salary because we’re saving for a mortgage. Then we save the other salary in an account that it’s hard to get the money out of.’
Tip 2: Jointly agree your goals and decide who’s going to manage the day-to-day expenses.
You might want to take a look at 5 tips to keep on top of your personal finances.
After a break-up
Ellen is in her 30s and broke up with her long-term boyfriend a couple of years ago.
‘For the majority of the time he earned a lot more than I did and he handled all the finances. I was still putting my half of the rent into his account but I never saw the bills.’
There didn’t appear to be any need to chat about money as her boyfriend seemed to have plenty of money coming in.
But things changed when her boyfriend lost his job and Ellen took over the role of managing the money.
‘I spent all of the money I earned just trying to keep the rent and the other bills paid and to buy food.’ She also gave some of her salary to her boyfriend for his own personal use.
However, she then discovered that her partner was addicted to gambling and had run up debts with out her knowledge.
The couple broke up and Ellen’s partner never repaid the money she had lent him.
‘I will never rely on anyone like that again,’ she says.
Unfortunately, it’s not unknown for people to hide an account, a credit card or even a debt from their partner.
Tip 3: Be honest, make sure you both have sight of your joint expenses and review them regularly.
When you get married
Orla got married last year and she and her husband bought their first home.
She manages the household finances. ‘I just don’t think it’d come into his brain to do it,’ she says.
He’s not alone. A worldwide survey found that only 55% of Irish people were financially literate compared to 66% in Germany, 67% in the UK and 71% in Sweden.
The couple have a joint account and every month they each put a money into it from their salaries to pay the mortgage, utility bills, groceries etc.
But they also have their own personal accounts and can spend what’s left of their salaries as they choose.
Orla says that she doesn’t know exactly how her husband organises his own personal money (and he doesn’t have sight of what she spends hers on) but that’s up to him.
With the household expenses covered she trusts him.
Having a joint account for household expenses and separate personal accounts works well for some couples giving each partner a bit of independence and privacy as well as joint commitment.
Tip 4: Decide whether you want a joint account for all your shared bills and agree how it will work.
Married with children
Brid is married with children and jointly manages household expenses with her husband.
‘My salary goes into my account, he gets paid into his account and then we both feed into our joint account,’ she explains. ‘The money in the joint account covers the cost of the mortgage and all household expenses plus groceries.’
It’s not unusual for one partner to earn more than the other and, in Brid’s case, her husband earns a lot more than she does.
Because of this they have agreed that he should contribute more to their joint account than she does each month.
When it comes to spending on their kids, Brid is the one who buys what they need so she spends it out of the joint account.
In contrast, her husband tends to use his personal account to pay for occasional expenses. It’s a practical way to manage the difference in their incomes.
Tip 5: Talk through how you might manage things if one of you earns a lot more than the other.
Communication is key
Every couple is different and there are many ways to manage money in a relationship.
Remember, whatever you decide, be clear about your financial goals, honest about your income and expenses and review your money regularly.
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