You love you partner, and you’re ready to tie the knot… but there’s one little issue: your partner is bad with money. Or, views money very differently than you do (more on that in a minute). This little issue is actually a big issue, and it can become a hugeissue if left unaddressed in a relationship. What can feel like a red flag, however, doesn’t have to be a relationship ruiner. Here’s how you can address the situation and ensure that finances — which is the second leading cause of divorce — don’t interfere with your impending marriage.
Start an open dialogue
If your partner is bad with money, the first step to overcoming this roadblock is by starting an open dialogue. Although, as the partner who is financially savvy, you may feel inclined to lecture your partner about how to be smarter with their money, you must refrain from this sort of delivery. As with anything in life, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Likewise, you should refrain from getting heated, because an argument will benefit neither of you. And, finally along the same vein, patronizing or outright shaming your partner’s spending habits will do nothing to create constructive solutions. You’ll only hurt their feelings, thus hurting them as a result.
Instead of pointing the finger and making a bunch of ‘you’ statements, focus on ‘we.’ What are your goals as a couple? Do you want to travel? Buy a house? Have a family? Retire early? Live a more lavish lifestyle? All of these things require money. Getting on the same page — and setting mutual goals — will ensure that both of you feel heard and will contextualize your desire for your partner to get wise with their money.
Take charge of the finances
Lots of couples have a dynamic where one person balances the proverbial checkbook, so there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you should manage the finances exclusively. That being said, the decision should be a mutual one — not you exercising power over your partner and stripping them of their financial autonomy. Couples who succeed best at one partner managing household finances are couples who use this strategy out of mutual consideration, confidence, and transparency.
People don’t always see the impact of their poor financial decisions. Even worse, some partners become combative and defensive when asked about their choices — even if you approach the topic with the best intentions. In these cases, it may be best to involve the expertise of a financial advisor. A financial advisor can address your current financial concerns while helping you plan for the future. Whether your goals are to get out of debt, invest, or you’re not quite sure, a trained professional can’t help your dollars make sense.
Pro tip: Speaking of professionals with expertise, we’d be remiss to skip over the value of counselors and therapists. While a financial advisor can break things down to numbers, sometimes there is a deeper-rooted issue affecting your partner’s reckless financial decisions. Whether in regards to being bad with money or in regards to overall relationship wellness, therapy is always a great decision.
None of our recommendations are mutually exclusive, and you can take a multi-faceted approach to handling a partner who is bad with money. The most air-tight solution of all may just be a prenuptial agreement. Although a prenuptial agreement won’t make your partner better with money, it protects you. And let’s be real: peace of mind is priceless. Having a prenuptial agreement will ensure that money becomes a sort of non-factor in regards to how your partner may be affecting your financial stability in the long run. Opting for this solution doesn’t mean that you love your partner any less; it just means that you value a stable future.
Now, back to the issue about how you view money, versus how your partner views money. It may seem as if spending habits have little direct correlation to how you live your life, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Typically, your views on money can closely parallel the approach you take to your life, and that becomes increasingly evident when you have a partner with different views. Before tying the knot, it is imperative that you talk about any differences- by taking some time to analyze your partner’s financial habits, and how they relate to your financial habits, you have the opportunity to talk through and resolve any issues.
Traditional & Conservative
If you or your partner is a tightfisted with their dollars, it is usually indicative of a more straight-arrow personality. Don’t take that too personally- there are many positives to living life in a disciplined manner. This personality type tends to focus on saving money, living well within their means, and investing carefully. Creating a financially secure life is nothing to sneeze at. If this is your partner’s take on life and money, you might tease them for being a by-the-book snooze fest every now and then. And if this is your take on life - and your partner is a reckless spender - they might be the one doing the teasing.
Impulsive & Reckless
An impulsive personality mixed with reckless spending is as wild as you might imagine. Such a personality and financial tendencies are characterized by impulse spending, too much shopping, living well outside their means, and racking up debt. Oh, and what budget? YOLO!
People with these tendencies often enjoy living on the wild side of life. You only live once, right? Well, yes, but if you are putting your financial security at risk, that time of free spiritedness can and will likely backfire at some point. At the end of the day, if you end up in crippling debt, you won’t find yourself feeling so free spirited.
A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That & Flexible
Flexibility is a very good thing when it comes to approaching finances and life! If you are able plan, but also able to roll with the punches and react accordingly, you are setting yourself up for success. When someone is flexible about finances, it typically means that they have most of your priorities in line, while still being able to enjoy travel, and a little spontaneity. If both you and your partner have a flexible view on life and money, you will likely have an easier time with the money conversation. And, it may be a little bit easier to adapt to the different phases of life.
So, what is ideal?
As with most things in life, the answer is not black and white. There is no "ideal" personality type or financial habit. There may be aspects of your partner's personality that lend themselves to positive financial habits, but others that lend themselves to negative financial habits. The key is to discuss any differences, and find solutions that work for you both. A prenup, for example, is a great way to discuss any differences, and to feel a sense of autonomy if you are a conservative spender and your partner is a reckless spender.