Changing jobs. Becoming a home or car owner. Starting a family. Some of life’s milestones have biiiig financial impacts. And when you’re in a relationship, those impacts spread beyond your own wallet. After a(nother) difficult, confusing year, they could be bigger than usual.
Tell me something I don't know.
Well, every year, TD Bank releases a survey allllll about the financial behaviors, opinions, and challenges of American couples. Since we know this is a subject Skimm’rs love to learn about, we’ve curated some of their findings. Plus some tips that can help you learn from other people’s mistakes — and wins.
Seems like communication is key.
You can say that again. And don’t forget about everyone’s favorite playground chant: Secrets secrets are no fun. Secrets secrets…you know how it goes.
The hard truth is, nearly a third of Americans keep a financial secret from their partner. Oh, and 50% of those secret-keepers have zero intention of spilling the tea. 76% of ‘em don’t even plan to share their secret with anyone. Like, ever. According to TD Bank, these numbers are a lot higher than they were in 2020 when only 11% of Americans were keeping a secret.
There’s a term for this: financial infidelity. And while spending more than your partner would approve of on a new outfit or a fancy dinner is one thing, hiding debt or an entire account can lead to serious relationship issues. If you’re keeping something to yourself because you’re ashamed, process your emotions before bringing that something up. And if all this talk about secrets has you wondering what your partner might be up to, you miiiight wanna set aside time to get aligned.
Are you talking about a money date?
Sure are. TD Bank’s 2022 survey found that most couples are comfortable talking about money and discuss finances at least once a month.
Even though it might feel awkward at first, do what you can to get (or keep) the convo going. Pro tip: Let the more extroverted person take the lead. It can help the other partner open up. If you’ve never broached the topic before, you can start by sharing how much you earn and how you expect that to change over time. This will help you both set realistic lifestyle expectations.
Then, give each person a chance to share their own financial boundaries. Maybe your partner only spends a certain percentage of their income on takeout. And maybe you have strict rules around lending money to friends. Whatever the boundaries are, it’s best to lay them on the table early on. So you can come to a money management plan everyone’s cool with.
Debt’s another critical item to cover. No matter how much or little you have. Because it could impact your credit score. And that can impact what’s possible down the line. Which brings us to our next talking point: long-term goals. You don’t have to have every day of retirement mapped out, but you should probably keep in close contact about the big things (think: where you want to live, whether you want kids, whether you want to buy a home, etc). That can be the most fun part of the convo, and also reveal whether your visions for the future align.
Throughout it all, remember that everyone has different feelings, approaches, and baggage when it comes to money. Share your own, and listen with an open mind. Keep an ear out for things you disagree on, but also try to create a judgement-free environment. No one way is necessarily better than the other. The most important thing is setting aside time for regular check-ins so you stay on the same page. On the big stuff and the small stuff.
The same page? That sounds nice.
Right? But realistically, that won’t be possible all the time. *See above where we mentioned that everyone’s approach is different.* It’s truly no wonder TD Bank found that 85% of Americans have financial disagreements with their significant other every. single. month.
Our suggestion? Focus on resolving them. Their study also showed that 62% of Americans prefer to talk things through on their own. But no shame if that’s not your style. In fact, 11% connected with a financial advisor. And the 96% of couples who described themselves as “happy” were more likely to solve disagreements by tapping an expert. Oh, and it might be tempting to “let things slide” once in a while. But it was actually the couples who described themselves as “unhappy” that were more likely to avoid confrontation. Not great.
So talk to your partner about money, yes. But also talk to your partner about how you wanna talk about money. And who else — if anyone — should be involved. It’s also a good idea to come to terms with what each of you considers a “need” and a “want.” And what constitutes a “mistake.” Hint: 52% of Americans in a relationship admit to making a financial mistake somewhere along the way. Big surprise: Overspending was the most common one.
Sounds like a lot of couples need a better budget.
A budget is definitely part of it. And 25% of single Americans told TD Bank it’s a red flag if a potential partner doesn’t have one. But that isn’t the full picture. Because 55% of coupled Americans say they’d part ways with their person if they didn’t have a budget. A similar discrepancy came up when single and coupled Americans were asked about working with a financial advisor.
What can we learn from that? People aren’t always truthful about their preferences and compatibility considerations. They may seem more flexible than they really are at the beginning of a relationship. But if you wanna give yourself the best shot at a happy future, be your true financial self up front, maintain an open line of communication, and acknowledge things may not always go as planned.
Oh, and whenever a curveball is thrown your way, think carefully before making any short-term changes that could derail your long-term financial or relationship goals.
No matter what your love language is, it’s important to speak the same money language as your partner. So you can make smart financial moves — together. Now that’s romance.
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