New ebook! Financial health for every stage of your relationship

Sabrina Lowell / Dec 12, 2017 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

Love and money

You’re in a relationship; it has shaped the course of your life. Regardless of what stage your relationship is in, you’ll have to deal with money. Doing so can promote open communication, trust around money habits, and can lead to a positive experience around money conversations for both partners.


4 Money Conflict Resolution Tips for Established Couples

Sabrina Lowell / Aug 11, 2017 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

When it comes to counseling couples about money disagreements, there’s no lack of research to draw on. Plenty of studies and surveys point to the undeniable truth that money differences are a leading cause of strife in marriages.

There’s a study I’ve not yet seen but would like to: what money issues do couples fight about at different stages of their marriage? We can probably safely assume engaged couples tango over wedding expenses, while newlyweds struggle to merge their finances along with their households and lives. But what do couples who’ve been married for a decade or three argue about? What are sources of money strife in established marriages?

One Money magazine poll sheds some insight into which money issues generally cause the most conflict, regardless of the vintage of a couple’s marriage:

  • Frivolous spending tops their list, with 55% of respondents saying it is the money issue they fought over most. Interestingly, both sexes think their partner is more likely to make a wasteful purchase.
  • Saving is a point of contention for 37% of couples. Twenty-one percent cite deceit as a problem, while 22% admit to hiding expenditures from their spouses, mainly because they don’t want to hear a lecture over the purchase. In the planning world, we call this “financial infidelity.”

Married life can be quite complex, and couples in the “middle years” of marriage can have no lack of money concerns to squabble over. Each partner may have a career that requires an investment of time and money to continue developing.

If they have children, add in all the financial demands associated with parenthood, including teaching their kids financial literacy and saving for college. Established couples may also be taking care of aging parents; the financial burdens on members of the sandwich generation are well-documented and highly stress-inducing.

On top of all that, established couples have the daily challenge of running and funding a household, and the long-term goal of saving for retirement. What keeps their financial partnership strong? 


Money tips for established couples

My job as a financial planner is often part financial advisor, part relationship counselor. While I wouldn’t be comfortable advising clients on how to resolve marital issues, I can offer surprisingly simple yet effective insights into financial management strategies that I’ve seen work for couples who were experiencing conflict in their money management roles.

Here’s 4 money conflict resolution tips for established couples based on my experience. 


Financial Advice for Newlyweds: 5 Keys to Bliss

Sabrina Lowell / Aug 1, 2017 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

How long does the “honeymoon phase” last for newlyweds? A few weeks after coming home from the actual honeymoon? A few months?

Actually, for many people that blissful period when you’re totally in love with your new spouse can last up to two years, according to research published in Prevention Science.

How long you linger in that honeymoon phase depends on many factors, including how happy you were with each other before you got married.

However, one thing is certain—conflict over finances can help hasten the end of your newlywed bliss.

In fact, 35 percent of couples who report stress in their relationship say finances are the leading cause of friction, according to a 2015 study by SunTrust Bank. What’s more, past basic incompatibility and infidelity, arguments over money are the third-leading cause of divorce, according to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.


Keeping the love alive

It’s not uncommon for couples today to start their married lives with debt. If you’re like most newlyweds, you just dropped a boatload of money on your wedding. Unless you eloped, got a lot of financial help funding the wedding or saved like crazy when you were engaged, chances are your post-wedding finances are far from robust. Many people also have debt from before they were married, such as credit card balances or student loans.

All these factors can create the perfect environment for conflict over money to occur between couples, even if they’re otherwise happy.

Here's where I step in and offer financial advice for newlyweds based on my experience working with couples over the years.

Newlyweds who successfully manage money—and prevent it from interfering with their marital bliss—apply these five principles to their financial partnership:


Before the Wedding: 7 Steps to Financial Harmony for Engaged Couples

Sabrina Lowell / Jul 18, 2017 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

Marriage joins two people in a commitment to build a life together, but if you’ve recently become engaged, you’re probably realizing that the union of your money-management tasks starts well before you say your vows. Planning a wedding, honeymoon, and your life afterward involves numerous decisions, many of them financial in nature.

How much will you spend on the wedding? Will you have it in a church (less expensive), a reception hall (more expensive) or somewhere like a destination resort (big bucks)? What will be the price tag for your dress and who will pay for it? Where will you go on your honeymoon? Where will you live afterward and how much will you pay for rent or mortgage? As far as taxes go, are you prepared for the marriage penalty?

Are these questions making you consider eloping?

According to a 2016 survey by The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in San Francisco now tops $42,716. For the average wedding nationwide, the bride’s parents pay 44 percent of the total budget, the bride and groom pony up 42 percent and the groom’s parents get off easy with a 13 percent contribution, the Knot found. Just 10 percent of couples paid the entire costs for their weddings, and even fewer—8 percent—had the entire wedding paid for by others. If you head into your nuptials without a plan for how you will pay for them, you could end up with wedding-related debt that lingers long after the honeymoon is over.

Taking control of your joint finances now can help you establish a sound and stable financial foundation for your future together.

Here are seven things for every couple to engage in before the wedding:



Moving In Together - Financial Advice Starts with Money Talk

Sabrina Lowell / Jun 27, 2017 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

You’ve learned a lot about each other in the time you’ve been dating, and you agree you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level.

You don’t feel ready for marriage or formal partnership yet, however, so you decide to live together. Combining households, whether you're married or not, means you’ll need to address financial questions like shared bills, housing costs and saving for the future.

You’ll need to learn to merge money-management styles, designate responsibilities and establish shared goals—all in close quarters and while keeping the love alive!

When it comes to moving in together - financial advice starts with money talk. Here are four elements to consider.


Dating and Money: 7 Tips for New Couples

Sabrina Lowell / Jun 21, 2017 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

Everyone knows it’s important for married couples to think about and discuss financial issues like saving and spending, credit use, and retirement planning.

What about when you’re first dating? 

Dating and money doesnt have to be oil and water. Let’s face it: for most people, the ultimate objective of dating is to find a person you want to build a life with. To increase your chances of a great life, get an understanding of how youd like your role as a partner to be defined, as well as an idea of your preferred financial partnership.

And remember: not every date will have life-changing potential. Some will be just fun, others will be disasters. The disasters will give you fodder for a few good stories, and all experiences will lead to lessons about what you do and don’t want. Youll be prepared when you notice sparks that could lead to a genuine connection.



How Couples Can Master Financial Balance

Sabrina Lowell / May 23, 2016 / Financial Planning / Couples and Money

“No marriage is 50/50 all the time. Sometimes it’s 70/30, 80/20 or even 90/10.” Plenty of us have heard some version of this relationship adage. The part often left unspoken is that hopefully you won’t always be the party putting in more.

It’s true that a marriage requires give and take, but it’s vital to a family’s overall well-being for both partners to find an equitable way to share responsibilities, especially when it comes to managing money.

So what does an equitable balance look like, and how do you get there?



The Prenup: In Case Love Doesn’t Conquer All

Steve Branton / Jul 31, 2015 / Estate Planning / Couples and Money

The idea of a prenuptial agreement is distasteful for many couples, for understandable reasons: The last thing you want to think about when you’re in love is the possibility that it won’t last forever.