5 money fights and how to avoid them

Achieve domestic bliss by dodging financial flare-ups

Felicity Hannah - Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Felicity Hannah | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning personal finance and consumer affairs journalist


Wandering eyes, whose turn it is to walk the dog, whether ketchup should live in the fridge or the cupboard…

All these issues can put a strain on the sturdiest of relationships – but according to research the culprit behind most arguments is cash. Sixty-two percent of respondents to an Office for National Statistics survey said that money worries were the biggest cause of stress in a relationship. The Money Advice Service agrees, claiming that the average couple has 39 arguments about money a year. If you can think of better ways of spending your time than falling out 0.75 times a week over cash, then here are the five triggers counselling service Relate have highlighted – and the best ways of addressing them.

Spending

The issue

A lot of couples argue over how much each other spends, with a surprising number of people concealing their spending from their partners. If a couple disagree on how much cash should be spent day-to-day or on a large purchase then this can be a huge source of friction.

How to address it

Talk. Having a grown-up conversation about money is easier said than done, but conversations about cash are always easier if you approach them at the right time. Last thing at night, after a few drinks, or during a stressful car journey are probably not the best moments to kick things off. Pick a time when you’re both relaxed and have the time and space to talk. Setting up a budget with a degree of independence built in and sticking to it is the place to start. Some couples may even find it easier to deal with this with the help of a counsellor or debt adviser.

Debt

The issue

This is a serious issue for lots of couples. Research shows that almost a third of adults have been with a partner who turned out to be in serious debt, while almost one in five say they have concealed their debts from their partner.

How to address it

Emotions can run high over debt, meaning there’s the potential for sparks to really fly. It is a conversation that needs to be had though, especially if you are considering combining your finances. Even if you are married, your partner’s credit score won’t affect your own. However, should you open a joint bank account, or sign on for a mortgage together, both credit ratings are likely to be impacted, if you have problems. The good news is that there is a lot of support available for those struggling with debt and, once the situation has been faced up to, it can be better for it to be out in the open.

Secret savings

The issue

While it might be the opposite of hidden debt, secret savings can be just as difficult for couples. Almost one in 10 married UK adults admit to concealing a secret store of money from their partner specifically as an escape fund in case they want to leave the relationship. The average amount was £7,500, so it’s not exactly small potatoes.

How to address it

It’s difficult to see an escape fund as a ringing endorsement of your relationship – but an agreed upon and openly discussed personal saving fund makes sense. Worst case scenario it’s there when you need it; best case you can pool them together and treat yourself to a cruise to celebrate your diamond wedding anniversary.

Managing money

The issue

This is a biggie. Should couples have a joint account or keep their finances separate? Should they split the bills in half or share them out? Should they take out separate financial products or do everything together?

How to address it

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to household finances, so you need to start talking to each other and maybe to an expert too. It’s important to do this together. There is nothing more toxic to a partnership than only one half understanding the finances. No matter how dull you find managing money, you both need to understand what’s happening. Once the first big conversation is out of the way it’s a good idea to schedule regular conversations about finances. Yes, that might sound as romantic as a three-hour traffic jam, but having a regular catch-up about money helps you both check you’re still on the same page.

Splitting assets

The issue

Sometimes relationships end. It’s unavoidable, but the arguments over how to divvy up assets and debts can quickly become tricky. If the fights have to be conducted through solicitors then it can become very expensive to resolve.

How to address it

The law can be very old fashioned – while married couples or those in a civil partnership have plenty of legal rights, the ‘living-in-sinners’ are left legally high and dry. With that in mind it’s a good idea to draw up a ‘living together agreement’ before you share a home. If the worst were to happen, a document that details what you’ve agreed to do about your home, possessions you’ve bought or own, and your bills and debts could save a lot of worry, heartache and legal bills.

And finally...

Make the time

We know most of us don’t make enough time to manage our money, let alone spend enough time as a couple doing so, but regular conversations about cash can help smooth out a number of tensions in a relationship and make us happier in the long run. Soon you’ll be the very image of domestic bliss – well, either that or your arguments will just be limited to condiment storage.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.