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.