Whether you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day or use it as an excuse to eat assorted chocolates alone, the February page on your calendar probably still has hearts on it. Though the month may be about love, it’s probably also high time to sort out a trap many couples fall into: arguing about money.
We consulted several financial planners to help you sort it out.
One of the first -- and biggest -- steps to avoiding fiscal fights, they say, is determining your financial compatibility.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’re both exactly the same (in terms of income), because no two people are going to be in that respect,” said Rebecca Kennedy of Kennedy Financial Planning.
Mike Jones with Northwestern Mutual told us it’s really about spending habits.
“Someone says, ‘Oh I’ve always been very frugal, and that’s the way I am, and my husband spends a lot of money. He has no idea what’s going on in our situation,” he said.
It’s important to figure that out as early as possible.
Jones, however, said you probably already know how your partner stacks up to your own spending.
“Even if you’re not talking about it, you see it,” he said.
“It’s definitely not a deal breaker in terms of a relationship,” says Marty Walsh with Brown & Tedstrom, “I mean it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. The biggest piece of advice I would give is being open and transparent.”
“Financial compatibility honestly comes from the communication,” Kennedy said. “So being open, and willing to communicate with your partner about finances, and willing to work together.”
The short of it: financial compatibility can become an issue if partner is spending and the other is saving, but you can avoid dooming your relationship.
“What works great,” said Dave Henderson with Integrity One Wealth Services, “Is if you come together, and sit down, and work on a plan.”
To get started, Henderson and others recommend just Googling “financial compatibility self-assessment.”
Here’s your checklist for financial compatibility:
- Are you saving more than your partner?
- Are you spending more than your partner?
- Are you and your partner openly communicating about how your spending and saving habits stack up?
- Do you and your partner’s combined spending habits set you up to reach your financial goals? It’s most helpful, experts say, to establish those goals, then work backward.
5. Can you work it out? If it’s not working out, is there a middle ground?
Henderson says there are numerous tools for helping you find your footing.
Kennedy recommends You Need a Budget: https://www.youneedabudget.com/
Several pros we spoke with also say the mobile app Mint is a great resource for determining your spending habits and starting to put a saving plan together.
Walsh says back-of-the-envelope budgeting works great too. All you need is a piece of paper, the numbers, and a calculator, and you should be able to figure it out.