So chances you are thinking more about romance than finance. But money issues can break up even the happiest of couples. So this Valentine’s Day, don’t just focus on flowers and gifts.
If you want your relationship to last forever, strive for fiscal harmony too. Discuss your approach to saving, budgeting and financial planning to ensure you’re an ideal match.
If you want to make sure you and your partner are a financially compatible couple, look for these nine telltale signs.
1. Shared Financial Values
While kindness, intelligence, humor and shared interests are crucial attributes single people often look for in a partner, taking stock of whether you’re financially compatible can help you build the foundation of a healthy relationship. With study after study showing that disagreements on important money matters can lead to significant damage to a relationship and, in many cases, divorce, ensuring you and your partner are on the same page is key. In fact, a 2018 survey from the financial education company Ramsey Solutions found that money issues are the second leading cause of divorce, after infidelity.
2. Talking Openly About Finances
If you or your partner routinely hide spending habits from one another, that’s a problem.
“This behavior is called financial infidelity,” says Derek Hagen, a certified financial planner and owner of Hagen Financial, a financial planning and coaching firm in Minnetonka, Minnesota.
While keeping financial secrets may not seem like a deal-breaker, it could signal distrust in your relationship.
“Financial infidelity usually happens because a couple fights a lot about money and one partner views it better to hide financial facts than to have a discussion or fight,” Hagen says.
To build trust, make sure to disclose your financial information, including any debts you have, your credit scores and your plans for saving for retirement.
3. Shared Future Financial Goals
If you have different financial objectives, this could be a red flag for issues later on, says Brie Sodano, financial advisor and owner of the financial firm From Sheep to Shark in Watertown, Connecticut. Sodano recalls one older couple she worked with, where the husband wanted to spend most of their money traveling.
“She wanted to pay for their children’s student loans, weddings and give them each a down payment on a first house,” Sodano says. “When the goals are vastly different, it’s best to start where you agree and move outward from there. Taking a win-win collaborative approach is better than a compromise, where both feel they have won on one thing, but lost on another.”
4. Similar Financial Upbringing
“When one person in the marriage comes from a more wealthy family, they can have much higher expectations of standard of living,” Sodano says. “This is especially troublesome for young couples, where they may not yet be able to afford the same lifestyle as their parents.” That said, if you grew up in a less-affluent neighborhood than your partner, it doesn’t mean you won’t be a money-conscious and supportive couple, but adjusting your financial outlooks may take some work.
5. Same Financial Comfort Zones
Sometimes, according to Sodano, a couple will start off in the same financial comfort zone, but over the years, you or your partner isn’t as happy because you’re no longer making as much money. Or perhaps your partner is earning more, but one of you is unsatisfied with how the money is being spent.
“We each have a financial comfort zone, a place where our savings, debt, earnings or expenses typically live,” Sodano says. “Often, I will see clients self-sabotage when they grow out of their comfort zone or become obsessive when below their comfort zone. If a married couple has vastly different comfort zones, it can feel like your spouse is a financial weight or a greedy, nagging lunatic.”
6. Financial Responsibility For Shared Expenses
When it comes to budgeting with your partner, do you feel confident that you spend within your means and never lecture each other about your money-management strategy as a couple? If so, you’re on a good track. On the other hand, if you constantly chide your partner for overspending and bringing in too little, this has the potential to cause a lot of stress.
“Blaming your spouse for financial trouble isn’t helpful in solving the problem or having a happy marriage,” Sodano says. Nobody wins in the blame game, and if you get in the habit of criticizing each other for being broke, chances are, you’ll start arguing about financial issues later on.
7. Similar Spending And Saving Patterns
If you and your significant other tend to make the same spending and saving decisions, chances are you share the same financial values. On the other hand, if your partner has poor spending habits and you criticize him or her for it, you may be labeled as a nag.
“Instead of criticizing your partner’s financial habits, clean up your side of the street,” Sodano suggests.
In other words, if you want your partner’s financial habits to improve, correct your own first.
“Consider your spending patterns, look at your transactions and make the moves that you can make on your own. When you want to get your spouse on board, it is much easier when there is already momentum,” Sodano says.
8. Comparable Income Levels
If you and your partner earn vastly different salaries, that can spell trouble, says Russell Knight, a divorce attorney in Chicago. What often happens is that the partners end up resenting each other, he explains.
“Usually the bigger earner will resent the smaller earner because they are both working just as much, while getting completely different results,” Knight says. “If the partner earning less spends money too freely, the higher earner may also resent his or her partner. And if the couple keeps their finances separate, then the relationship becomes absolutely unsustainable,This doesn’t seem to happen when one party does not work. I think there’s just a different dynamic.”
9. Not Arguing About Finances
If you openly and frequently talk about money, that’s a good indication you’re a suitable match.
“At the end of the day, having similar goals and values will make couples’ lives much easier when it comes to settling any money problems,” says Michael Minter, managing partner of Mintco Financial, a financial planning firm with offices in Buffalo, New York, and Tampa, Florida. “But you have to talk about those goals and values and discuss your budget. I always say to my clients, when it comes to finances if something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it. Saying it builds trust and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it.”