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Why Do Couples Fight Over Money? A Guide To Prevent Fighting Your Spouse Over Money

Mar 7, 2018 |
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Be financially transparent. Financial transparency is the foundation of good communication, says Bethany Palmer. "If you're not open with your spouse about your finances, it's very hard to have an intimate relationship," she says.

Being honest about your finances from the start—including any debt you carry, for example—will enable you and your spouse to avoid financial infidelity. "If both parties aren't on the same page, it leads to secrets, which can undermine a marriage," says Matt Bell, author of Money & Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Newly Married Couples.

Exchange information. Jean Dorrell, a certified estate planner in Summerfield, Fla., who counsels couples about money, recommends that couples share credit reports and tax returns—that way, nothing is kept secret. This ideally occurs before they tie the knot, but it can still be effective if done at the beginning of the marriage . "When you fall in love with somebody, you don't think about going, 'Oh, by the way, how's your credit score?' But it's a conversation you need to have," Dorrell says.

If your partner has significant debt, Dorrell suggests you consider signing a prenuptial agreement so that you're not legally responsible for paying off their debt in the event that you divorce.

Establish a budget. Creating a budget for you and your spouse will take the guesswork out of your money arguments. "A budget gives you factual information," says Bell. "A lot of arguments around money have to do with assumptions and emotions. But if you have a budget, you can take a look strictly at the numbers, which will enable you to have a fact-based discussion about any disagreements."

Even if one spouse doesn't stick exactly to the budget, having one in place creates an expectation of how much each of you should be spending. Just be sure to allow some wiggle room for discretionary purchases, suggests Lynn Mayabb, a certified financial planner with BKD Wealth Advisors in Kansas City. "Everybody is going to have something they want to buy that the other person thinks is frivolous," she says. "Each person needs a certain amount of money that they don't have to explain where they spent it. If you have a budget that's too constricting, people have a hard time sticking to it."

Understand each other's money personality. Scott and Bethany Palmer believe each person has a money personality—a spending style that dictates their money habits. At the most basic level, someone is a saver or a spender, according to the Palmers. If a saver and a spender wind up together, which the Palmers say often happens because opposites attract, the couple's day-to-day lives are in conflict. The saver wants to make dinner at home; the spender wants to eat out. The spender buys himself a nice bathrobe and the saver resents it each morning when she sees it hanging on the hook. "You would think the biggest arguments about money would be over a big subject like a house or a car, but it's over everyday decisions," says Bethany Palmer.

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