This week I saw a report from a respected source which found that within couples, dishonesty about money is surprisingly common. A third of those who manage money jointly admitted to hiding financial information from their partner – even hiding bank accounts!
Money management is a central element in any household. Being straightforward and cooperative with your partner on money management brings at least three benefits:
- Stronger finances and more progress toward financial goals.
- Stronger, healthier relationship.
- Children in the household will learn healthier money attitudes and develop stronger money skills.
Both partners in any couple need to be very aware of the household’s finances, including: how much money do you have, how much do you owe, what are the monthly bills, what insurance coverage you have and why, and where are important papers kept. This is true even if one partner actually takes care of most financial tasks. Why?
- Survival – if something happened to one partner, the other needs to be able to find information and take care of business.
- Shared power – any time all or most of the power (including power over finances) rests with one partner, the relationship is at risk.
Some strategies that can help you build joint money management and awareness include:
- Shared financial goals, discussed and written down, then reviewed periodically.
- Regular meetings (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) to plan for upcoming financial decisions and needs.
- Equal access to account information (printed statements or on-line account access) – for bank and investment accounts and also for credit and debt accounts.
Sometimes people resist sharing all information because one partner gets irritated by certain small spending habits of the other (such as regular coffee purchases, or picking up magazines). In addition, it can be tedious to keep track and report ever purchase of an ice cream cone or a new pair of socks. When you think about it, It would be difficult to purchase gifts for each other if all spending must be disclosed!
A nice way to allow each partner some freedom for independent spending is for each to have an allowance. (did you think allowances were just for kids? Nope! They can be great for adults too!) Then each partner has some autonomy, and some financial privacy within limits.
If you manage money with a partner, what can you do to make sure your financial relationship is cooperative and straightforward?