Love & Money: How Finances Impact your Relationships
- Marguerita (Rita) Cheng
- April 7, 2022
When couples approach Bluestone about life insurance, they generally agree about what and who they want to protect (each other, kids, parents, community, planet), but they may not always agree about the best way to do that.
A friend of Bluestone, Rita Cheng, Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP), shares her personal experience getting life insurance coverage when her husband had a different opinion about it. She shares tips about how couples can get on the same page financially and build a healthy relationship around money.
My husband and I have differing opinions on insurance. We’re both multi-cultural and multi-racial and have different perspectives on our finances. My Dad showed me where the life insurance policies were located in a safe when I was 10 years old after my aunt died. He paid for my aunt’s final expenses and used this opportunity to teach me about insurance. Joe’s Dad died while he was earning his undergraduate degree.
Joe has a large extended family in Indonesia, so there’s no shortage of relatives there to care for loved ones in the event of an illness or premature death. In his mind, why buy insurance when you have family?
My reaction to Joe’s perspective on financial planning was making him feel guilty. I then applied for life insurance on my own, scheduled the paramedical exam when I was six months pregnant, and agreed to pay the life insurance premiums for us both.
Photo below: Rita Cheng with the Washington Monument in the background
Sure, one could say I’m risk-averse. I prefer to say risk-aware. I didn’t think that buying life insurance would jinx me. I didn’t think avoiding the topic would prevent me from dying, either. I wanted my family to have the money they’d need in the event of my illness, disability, or death.
As a CFP® professional, I observe how financial planning can affect a marriage. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single segment of our lives that’s not affected by financial planning.
Imagine the hurdles a couple will face if one or both partners lack even the most basic financial literacy. Missteps and the arguments that result from them frequently lead to ongoing tension and mistrust in a relationship, sometimes reaching a point of no return.
Americans’ declining financial literacy (and solvency) is a growing concern—even the Federal Reserve took note. In a 2018 study, it found that 40 percent of adults wouldn’t be able to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense or would have to sell something or borrow money to cover it.
Add the tension of unpaid bills, looming student debt, or over-spending on credit cards to the stress of a romantic relationship, and it’s no wonder money is one of the most often cited instigators of marital discord.
Three Ways to Avoid Financial Tension in your Relationship
- Talk openly about what you both believe and understand about your finances. It's common that one partner may lack basic financial knowledge or that either person has had negative financial experiences in their family growing up. A lack of understanding about where you're coming from can lead to missteps in the marriage and arguments, tension, and mistrust.
- A couple’s financial literacy should include personal financial planning, creating a budget, setting goals, and managing debt.
- A financial advisor can work as a neutral party to help you and your significant other focus on your goals, increase communication, create “next steps,” and improve your financial outlook.
Understanding what Financial Literacy Means to You
Financial literacy is the ability to understand money and the role it plays in a person’s life. For couples, it means knowing how beliefs about money impact decisions about money, which in turn affect both partners in a relationship.
For couples, financial literacy should include personal financial planning, creating a budget, setting goals, and managing debt—not just because it’s the “right” thing to do, but because one partner’s decisions will affect the other partner, whether those decisions are intentional or not.
As a CFP® professional who helps clients plan for their financial futures, I encourage both parties to clearly state their views on money, which pretty quickly highlights where they differ. The two individuals who make up a couple bring with them two different perspectives on saving, spending, and investing—not to mention what’s an acceptable level of debt or risk.
When the two members of a couple come from different backgrounds, having contrary opinions on how things “should be” is common. Agreeing on how to handle finances and having frequent conversations about progress is essential.
Creating Financial Harmony
Being open and honest is the foundation of creating financial harmony in a relationship. Couples should fully disclose their financial situation, including sharing details about debt, credit scores, bank balances, and spending habits. When taking this essential first step, it’s crucial for couples to listen to each other without judgment so they can gain a clear understanding of their entire financial situation.
In some relationships, one person takes care of the primary financial responsibilities. Even when this is the case, financial professionals should meet with both partners in a relationship because financial decisions will have an equal impact on each partner, regardless of who makes the initial choices.
Money is tense. Money is awkward. Money is personal. It’s simultaneously one of the most uncomfortable topics in a relationship and the one most likely to play a prominent role in a couple’s success.
Just like a mental health professional guides individuals and couples over their emotional hurdles, financial professionals can help ensure couples have the right vocabulary, financial literacy, and confidence to make the best choices with their money.
Marguerita (Rita) Cheng helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent and ethical financial planning. As a Certified Financial Planner® and chief executive officer of financial advisory firm, Blue Ocean Global Wealth, Rita helps people meet their life goals through the proper management of financial resources. She is passionate about helping them navigate some of life’s most difficult issues—divorce, death, career changes, caring for aging relatives—so they can feel confident and in control of their finances. Rita is a regular columnist for Kiplinger and MarketWatch, and a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign. Rita volunteers her time as a SoleMate, or charity runner for Girls on the Run, raising money for scholarships for girls.
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