You know this couple. They met, fell in love, moved in together — and then slowly began to sink under the weight of their money habits. He ran up her credit card; she kept purchases secret. They ignored their financial woes.
Financial harmony is crucial to a couple’s long-term synergy with money. Through experiences, couples with cohesive financial strategies have the most successful relationships. Over the years, you hear the same bad money decisions tear apart couple after couple. In fact, of couples exhibiting these behaviors, more than 95% ended on bad terms.
Here are the top five bad money habits couples have:
1. They disrespect each other’s credit. One of the worst fiscal violations I’ve witnessed is how credit is misused in a relationship, causing a party’s credit score to falter as credit card balances are increased and leaving the trusting partner in a relationship on the hook for the bills. I have seen otherwise smart individuals allow a partner to use their credit and turn a blind eye to misuse, until it’s too late and they’re in a hole financially — and spend years paying back big debts.
Rule: Never permit a loved one, including a marriage partner, to take advantage of your available credit and perhaps ruin your credit score, whether it’s intentional or not. It’s not a matter of trust; it’s a matter of control. You must be the steadfast gatekeeper of your available credit and scores. If it’s true love, the other party will appreciate your discipline. If you do share credit, make sure to carefully examine all credit card statements and access credit reports annually for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.
2. Lack of communication. Especially when it comes to life-changing financial decisions or big purchases. It’s OK if you fail to mention lunches or an occasional discretionary purchase. When it comes to large expenditures like expensive durable goods or making big decisions that may affect both parties, like a new job offer or a decision related to retirement, it’s best to share all relevant information with a partner or spouse before moving forward. Even if it’s a wise decision, the action of sharing and receiving feedback is crucial to the health of a relationship you cherish.
Rule: Before financial decisions representing anything above $100 are executed, think twice and open up. Take to heart information shared through open dialogue. Consider getting an objective third party involved in the mix to listen to both sides and weigh the evidence.
3. Little consideration for the blueprint. Deep inside you is money DNA. Since childhood, you have handled money based on experiences. You also learned from observation and communication — parents, grandparents. If your money mindset conflicts with a partner, that’s OK. There are methods of compromise. If your money mindset is disregarded or even ridiculed, then it’s time to question the viability of the relationship.
Rule: Whether you’re a deep saver or big spender, be aware of the manner in which you’re treated if your partner’s money DNA conflicts with yours. The couples who endure are the ones who find a working medium or a hybrid DNA strategy. The key is to watch for judgmental language and money behaviors that jeopardize the current situation or the health of the future household balance sheet.
4. Reliance on multiple bailouts. You know the type. They mess up with money and then seek others, like parents or partners, to bail them out. Then the same reckless behaviors are repeated and the bailouts continue. It’s bad news. Rarely do I observe couples who last long when they’re traveling this endless loop. Usually, a partner is suckered in more than once and leaves the relationship financially and emotionally fragile.
Rule: A one-time bailout, depending on your financial situation, is acceptable. No excuses or money provided when similar mishaps are repeated. It’s a hard rule and it will save you financially. Perhaps you leave with your self-esteem intact, too.
5. Financial success is resented. According to a Pew Research study from May 2013, a record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. To put it in perspective, the share was 11% in 1960.
Since the financial crisis I have witnessed women taking additional charge of their finances (and the families), and men in the relationship growing increasingly resentful.
I have worked with couples in which women have become increasingly unhappy when partners have taken on additional work responsibilities, resulting in time away from personal activities.
Resentment is poison to any close relationship and detrimental to elevating finances to the next level.
Rule: A resentful attitude over a partner’s success requires thorough and truthful self-reflection. Instead of wasting precious energy on negative emotions, objectively witness and attempt to replicate the habits of a successful partner. Ask for guidance. Be open to criticism if it’s positive and leads to self-improvement.
Couples can be a galvanized force, working together toward gaining greater wealth. Or their bad money habits can trigger the rapid deterioration of their combined net worth and the crumbling of the relationship.
Ongoing financial drama can ruin a love match. Keep a sharp eye out for the signs and make an effort to change these toxic habits before they poison your partnership.
Now, we want to hear from you! Would like to share your opinion or make a comment on the Unlock Your Wealth Radio Show? If so, then please leave your comment or questions in the space provided below and share this article with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Your comments or question could be chosen as our featured Money Question Monday and a phone call by financial expert Heather Wagenhals could dial your way to be live on the Unlock Your Wealth Radio Show.