Avoid These Seven Common Financial Mistakes Couples Make
Developing strategies that proactively empower you to sidestep common financial mistakes that couples make may be one of the most important challenges you and partner tackle together as you move throughout life.
Here are seven financial mistakes couples make and how to avoid them, whatever your age, earning power or marital status.
1. Not talking about money to keep the peace.
In a March 2017 Discover survey, 87% of respondents — both partnered and single — said the ability to communicate (about any topic, financial or otherwise) was the characteristic they most valued in a mate.
When Money magazine polled 1,000 couples, those who reported having open and honest conversations about money with their partner had a greater sense of financial security and marital passion — and fewer money-related arguments — than those who avoided the topic.
If you steer clear of financial conversations in your relationship because it rarely results in a productive outcome, Money‘s experts recommend these tactics:
- Limit the conversation to no more than 15 minutes at a time.
- Tackle one money topic at a time.
- Ask open-ended questions to facilitate conversation and reduce a sense of blame or hostility about financial mistakes.
More than half (55%) of the partnered respondents to Discover’s survey said finances had put strains on a past or current relationship
2. Thinking separate accounts means separate financial lives.
You and your partner may opt to keep separate bank and credit accounts, but some aspects of personal finance inevitably impact your shared life, especially if you intend to live together (as renters or homeowners), split expenses for basic living needs, goals or couple activities, or apply jointly for a loan one day.
Given that 28% of partnered respondents to Discover’s survey ranked their partner’s having a good credit score as an important characteristic, just below religious beliefs in order of importance, couples need to be transparent about the aspects of their individual financial lives that affect their financial reality (and future) as a couple.
3. Not reviewing both of your credit reports.
Your credit history is attached to your Social Security number; Experian explains that you’ll maintain individual credit histories regardless of whether you marry, or whether you change your last name.
Despite that, one partner’s past financial mistakes can impact present-day financial goals, especially if you intend to apply for a home or auto loan together. Credit scores and credit history can be improved over time, but you have to know where you each stand first.
According to Discover’s survey, very few (5 to 7%) respondents, whether partnered or single, have ever shared their credit score on a dating website or app.
4. Not considering how a living arrangement impacts each partner.
Financial mistakes tend to happen when both partners’ best interests are not considered as part of the formal living arrangements, according to Kiplinger. If you rent property together as an unmarried couple, include both of your names on the formal lease agreement; secure a notarized cohabitation agreement that outlines the financial responsibilities you’ll both contribute to the living arrangement.
If you secure a mortgage together, Bankrate says you’ll remain an item in the eyes of your mortgage lender until you refinance the property into one person’s name, pay off the home or sell it — even if you decide to end the relationship.
5. Not discussing your student loan debt.
Both single respondents to Discover’s survey, and those in a relationship, said a partner’s debt was an important component to the viability of the relationship. More than one in three respondents (36%) said that a partner without a lot of debt was important to them; 23% wanted the partner to at least be actively paying off student loans.
Plus, a number of financial consequences can unfold when partners with student loan debt marry and don’t understand the implications tying the knot has on their financial lives.
For example, filing taxes jointly as a married couple may mean loss of income-based repayment plan eligibility for federal student loans. And, if a spouse takes on private student loans in a community property state, or refinances student loans, both spouses could be held accountable for the loan repayment, according to U.S. News & World Report.
6. Not agreeing on financial priorities and goals.
It’s common for couples to divide and conquer financial duties, but, as Psychology Today explains, “making one-sided, autonomous decisions [about spending] may cause or reflect problems in the relationship.” Further, its experts note that children and family tend to “cost” women more than men in terms of how personal spending money is used, even when both partners generate similar levels of income.
More than half (55%) of the partnered respondents to Discover’s survey said finances had put strains on a past or current relationship (ranking highest, followed by goals for the future and career decisions). The top financial strains included overspending, income and amount of debt. Nearly one in five respondents (20% single, 18% partnered) have had a relationship end due to financial issues.
Check in regularly to confirm that you’re both on the same page with your designated financial task, and discuss what each of you is doing financially to help ensure a fair and balanced arrangement.
7. Not having a current estate plan.
Finally, you don’t have to be wealthy to benefit from having an estate plan. In its most basic sense, an estate plan ensures that your and your partner’s assets are catalogued, managed as intended, and accessible to both of you in the case of medical emergency, disability or death.
Having adequate life insurance and other financial protections in place is also part of creating an estate plan, along with designating who will be responsible for financial or medical decisions in the event that either of you is incapable of doing so.
The top four qualities sought in a potential mate, according to the Discover survey, were that the person be honest, reliable, responsible and cares about others. One of the best ways to demonstrate these qualities is to take your — and your partner’s — financial future seriously.