How to avoid money conflicts in marriage


Are you and your partner on the same page financially? Do you share the same goals and values about money? Stacey Tisdale, author of The True Cost of Happiness has great advice for how to avoid money conflicts in marriage.

How to avoid money conflicts in marriage

Couples can bring different attitudes about money and spending to their marriage. Society tells you you should have what’s “best” but it’s up to you to decide what is best for you as an individual, then as a couple.

  • Couples generally discuss their levels of compatibility about religion, children, and sex when they decide to be together, but find it difficult to discuss financial compatibility. This is an important conversation to have as soon as possible to avoid money conflicts down the road. 
  • Every individual should have his or her own bank account first before creating a joint account with their partner. When saving money together, first decide individually the things you value that a dollar can buy. 
  • Come up with life goals together and then create a plan for reaching those goals to avoid money conflicts in your relationship. For example, if you both want to live in France for a year, ask yourselves why you are spending so much money on rent in Manhattan or that summer vacation house. How does that help you reach your goal?
  • Ask yourself if you bring the same integrity to your finances that you do to fidelity and loyalty? You should be honest with your partner about what you're spending and be loyal to the goals you have set together. Financial decisions represent how you respect your partner. 
  • Have monthly money meetings to go over your finances. Don't do it near bill paying time or when there's a money problem. Have it coincide with a positive activity, like going out to dinner without the kids.

RON: I'm Ron Corning for We've all heard a fool and his money are soon parted, but how about this: a couple is soon parted by their money conflicts if they don't learn to work them out. Joining me with some great advice on this tricky subject is Stacey Tisdale. She's the author of The True Cost of Happiness. Stacey nice to see you again.

STACEY: Thank you for having me. 

RON: So let's first establish here what we're talking about is men and women coming together; they bring to the table sort of different attitudes and different beliefs about money.  I'm thinking that if you both can agree that you want to own a home, that's part of the American Dream, you then have to come to a decision how much of a home can you afford; how much of a home do you want to afford? One person in the relationship might be able to spend more, the other believes they should spend less. So therein lies a conflict.

STACEY:  Exactly and I tell people it's really important--society tells us best you know. You're getting messages all the time in the media, you know, live here, own this, own that, but what you really have to make sure is that it's your definition of best that you're working to pay for. This isn't a dress rehearsal; this is your real life right now. How much of these influences costing you and you really have to put a dollar value on that as an individual, then as a couple.

RON: Would you advice a couple to allot a certain amount of money for each of them as discretionary income to buy whatever they want? 

STACEY:  Everybody should have their own account; I'm a big advocate of that. But there's  a lot of hard and fast rules out there. You'll have X amount in a joint account, X amount in an individual account--and that's where I take issue because I see a lot of people try to stick to those formulas and they just can't because they haven't taken their first financial personality into account. You have to look at what drives you and makes you tick as an individual and until you get a handle on that, come up with goals together. Think about why you want to do this. You know, suppose we want to live in France for a year, why are we spending $5000 a month on an apartment in Manhattan and you know $6000 a summer to rent a house in the Hamptons. Why are we doing that when our bigger goal is to, you know, live abroad for a year. You have to really break those things down and examine them as a couple.

RON: Let's rewind a little bit. Before you actually come together as a couple, before you're married, you're sort of marking your compatibility with someone. You're measuring, okay how are we compatible here, how compatible are we sexually, what are our values as it relates to religion, what we want for our children if we have kids. The one thing nobody talks about is financial compatibility. So you come together and you realize he or she have thousands of dollars in credit card debt that they didn't tell you about and then you're feeling bogged down by that person's debt. They have  different idea of spending. What point in a relationship do you talk about where you're at financially? 

STACEY:  As soon as you can. Money--as you were saying--money is harder to talk about than sex. That means we have no role model. Parents probably didn't talk about money that much in front of you. A big problem that I have is that people aren't learning about money in schools. So we don't have any mileing for how to talk about it until really there becomes a problem. You know the financial aspect of your relationship is just a big a part as things like fidelity and other aspects of your relationship. The question is even if you're different can you bring the same integrity to the financial aspect of your relationship as you bring the things like fidelity and loyalty. And as your financial decisions they simply represent how you respect your partner. 

RON: And part of that is sitting down, you believe, and having a financial meeting. You certainly would sit down and talk about how your kids are doing in school. You get a report card every quarter. You have a teacher's conference where you go in and talk about how your child's doing. You should do the same with money.

STACEY:  Definitely a monthly money meeting. You want to plan it around a positive activity. You know, dinner out without the kids. And you want to make a point of these meetings to talk about your goals and some of your individual issues with money because what you don't want these meetings to do is be just a time to talk about problems. And conflicts don't happen near bill time because there is generally a lot of tension during that time. And don't have them--don't try to have these sit down meetings if you're having a big argument about money. The idea is to take it around a positive activity. It's a place to reconnect on many levels. Money simply represents what we value in life. Look at it like that. Don't get into the nuts and bolts and dollars and cents. It's just not important. 

RON: So you plan a dinner to talk about money, but she wants to go to Olive Garden and spend $20 and he wants to go to Pr--- and spend 200. 

STACEY: Go to Olive Garden.

RON: Or would it be the other way around? It depends on what your relationship is life. Alright Stacey Tisdale thank you. Stacey is the author of The Trust Cost of Happiness: the Real Story Behind Managing your Money. There's more information at I'm Ron Corning for 

meet theexpert
  • Stacey Tisdale

    Stacey Tisdale Author, The True Cost of Happiness Stacey is the author of The True Cost of Happiness: the Real Story Behind Managing Your Money. She has also appeared on The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show as an expert on the financial issues facing women. more about this expert »

check outSPORTS
Little children playing team soccer

get more fromexperts