Money and Relationships: Making them work together

BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- As a personal financial counselor, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with many young couples in love who want to start out on the right foot by planning their financial goals together. I have also had the unfortunate task of meeting with many individuals who are struggling with the heavy financial burden of a divorce. I don't know how many of these marriage breakups were the result of money problems, but you can't escape the fact that disagreements over financial issues are often cited as a major contributor to marital discord.

If you are in a serious relationship with someone you love, have you really thought about how the two of you see money in that relationship? Do you communicate well about your finances?

I recently had an opportunity to attend a relationship finance summit sponsored by the U.S. Treasury. The seminar brought together many professionals from both financial and relationship counseling backgrounds to discuss ways to better reach couples who can benefit from financial literacy programs. 

One thing became crystal clear: No one has all the answers, but we can all learn to do better when it comes to money and relationships.

Therefore, I would like to share a few basic things to think about if you'd like to begin a financial discussion in your own relationship.

First, what beliefs do you have about money, credit and debt? How do those beliefs differ from those of your partner? What beliefs about money did you grow up with? For example, did your parents discuss money issues? Did they set and work toward financial goals? Which of your parents handled most of the financial responsibilities? Does that influence your beliefs about who should do the same in your relationship?

Are the responsibilities and expectations clear regarding who manages the finances? If one of you is primarily responsible, is the other fully aware of how it's done? Do both of you have the knowledge and ability to manage your finances?

Have you worked out a spending plan together and come to an agreement about spending decisions that's fair and reasonable to both of you? If so, have you been successful at following it? How are decisions about larger purchases made? For example, do you have a clear agreement about how one of you obtains the other's approval for those purchases?

These are just a few ideas that may help you get started having a constructive discussion about money issues with your partner. It's my sincere hope that dealing with some of these things will help you focus on those things that are much more important, like seeing the larger picture, recognizing what your priorities are and realizing that spending quality time together is more valuable than having more material things.

Finally, I would encourage you to take advantage of the many resources the 11th Wing has to offer couples. For more information about financial matters, call the Airman & Family Readiness Center at (202) 767-0450.