Talking money with your spouse isn’t unromantic

By Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli

Published: Thu 11 Mar 2021, 5:18 PM

What brought them together was love, but what is creating a wide rift between them after almost a decade of marriage, is bad money management. Sanjay and Leela have been going through a rough patch primarily because of the anxieties around lack of savings and a continual stream of expenses. “Our salaries didn’t increase much in the last few years, but expenses did. Our savings are nearly zilch. I get lectured about my visits to the salon every two weeks, but there is no accounting for the money spent on brunches,” says Leela, a communications expert who recently lost her job. The couple’s concerns about future income is surfacing in their everyday chats.

What Sanjay and Leela are going through is not unusual or unique to them. Financial issues are a common sore point in relationships. “Arguments about money do hamper marriages and many spouses increasingly indicate that a huge source of conflict in their relationship is money. Relationships suffer due to the severe financial strain and where such issues are not resolved from attending counselling, couples opt to divorce,” says Nita Maru, managing partner and solicitor, TWS Legal Consultants.

Such issues can be resolved if there is trust between the couple. “One of the main issues is the inability to reconcile spending behaviour. It doesn’t help if one tends to spend impulsively and the other wants to scrimp as much as possible. But these issues can be ironed out by making a financial plan,” says Ashutosh Sheth, a certified financial planner.

Know your partner, talk about childhood money experiences: Our spending behaviour and money attitude is usually influenced by the experiences in our childhood, marked either by abundance or poverty of choices. Of course, there are many choices in between but it is usually the extreme experiences that tend to stay with us. Talking about money isn’t a taboo but a good point to start knowing your partner better. Talk about the biggest money fears, aspirations waiting to be accomplished, goals to be reached. In most cases, such conversations will help vocalise thoughts that can be turned into action for a better and more coordinated household budget.

Put it down on paper: Conflicting expectations lead to fights. It is good to agree on critical money aspects, like identifying good and bad spends. Better still, write them down and leave no room for assumptions. As simple as this exercise may appear, its effectiveness depends on how true each person can stay to the agreed spending rules.

Joint or individual bank accounts: If we take a rational approach to money, joint bank accounts work effectively in taking care of household expenses and funding collective investment goals. “If both husband and wife are working, they can contribute, say 60 to 70 per cent of their incomes, to this joint account for household expenses and investments, and the rest can be utilised through their individual bank accounts,” says Sheth. It isn’t about the lack of trust between couples, but separate accounts give a little wriggle room to individuals and their spending choices. This arrangement also works well for households with single earners.

Lack of a plan, inability to review and make changes to big-ticket spends such as rents, can take a toll on household finances. But instead of arguing about money, find ways to resolve the issues. Talk about money, it isn’t unromantic, it is liberating.

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