You’re a goody-two-shoes saver. Your partner’s a wild spender.
You’re obsessed with investing. He doesn’t know the difference between ROTH and traditional IRAs.
You track your spending on the Mint app daily. She waits to review her spending until the credit card bill arrives.
If you and your beloved are financial opposites, you’re not alone. A highly-referenced academic study found that “tightwads” and “spendthrifts” tend to attract. Spenders may find security and comfort in being with a saver. And savers may enjoy the thrill of partnering up with someone who likes to splurge.
But as we know, money differences can eventually spark conflict, which can trigger bigger problems including divorce.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The same academic study that discovered financial opposites attract, concluded that couples can succeed when they commit to controlling spending and credit card debt.
If your money differences are hurting your relationship, here’s some advice to help keep your fiscal attraction from turning fatal.
Find Common Ground
Accept it. Your financial habits are different than your partner’s. Rather than obsess over that, focus on what you share in common: your goals and shared vision for your future. You may both agree that you want to buy a home or start a family. Have those goals serve as the financial anchor in your relationship. By recognizing the goals you share and how important they are to the both of you, you may each be more willing and interested in adjusting your financial habits to make those goals a reality.
Designate a CFO
One of you is either naturally better or more interested in tracking the household finances. So, own it! Nominate yourself as the chief financial officer or CFO of the relationship. Douglas McCormick, a financial advisor and author of Family, Inc. told me on my podcast that the best person for this role is the one who has the most time and aptitude for managing the family’s budget and paying the bills.
From time to time, switch roles so that both of you are aware of the responsibilities and understand how to pay joint bills.
If you’re not the CFO, be sure to read this, too. It’s the least you should know to remain financially competent in your relationship.
Set Spending Thresholds
Create a rule of thumb where you talk to each other before making pricey purchases. If you’re the spender, this strategy will encourage you to stop and think before splurging on something for the household. Design a spending threshold of say, $200 or $300, whereby you must check in with your partner before ringing up anything that exceeds that price point.
This not only shows respect for your shared savings and goals, it builds trust. No going behind the other’s back to buy something for fear of being judged (which does happen quite a bit.)
Maintain Your Own Account
Speaking of not wanting to be judged, having your own separate bank account can provide you with the financial freedom and autonomy both of you crave. No need to ask your partner if it’s “okay” to buy something for yourself since it’s coming from your own personal savings. I recommend each of you take at least five or 10% of your income and stash it in a personal slush fund.
Share (and Respect) Your Money Histories
In many cases, our financial habits are rooted in our upbringing and childhood influences. Are you a saver because your family was extremely frugal? Did your parents’ divorce teach you the importance of having financial independence? Or, maybe you were you an only child who was spoiled rotten?
Going down memory lane together can expose many stories that are relevant to the way we behave with money today. The point is not to look for excuses to permit bad money manners. Instead, learning your financial histories can provide each of you with more patience and understanding for why your partner thinks and act the way he or she does with money.
Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).
Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.