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Investing in love - tips for managing money in relationships

23 April 2019

Investing in love - tips for managing money in relationships

When it comes to romantic relationships, we invest plenty of emotion, energy and time. But we also invest a lot financially and, in many cases, make trade-offs around how much financial freedom we retain and how much of the financial management will be done by each partner in the relationship.

In research commissioned by GSB recently, ‘being good with money’ was ranked the 4th most desirable trait in a partner, so clearly money matters.

Around 44% of those aged 25-34 indicated they have confidence in the financial acumen of their fianc√©. However, there are also a number of Australians – around 1 in 5 – who distrust their spouse or partner’s ability to control the purse strings.

We asked founder of the Financy Women's Index, Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, to share some financial wellbeing tips for managing money in a relationship.

1. What kind of financial knowledge is important to take into a relationship?

It's really important to go into a relationship with a full understanding of your own financial position from what you earn, your spending habits and your admin such as bills and debts, plus your investments including Super.

Knowledge is power, and that applies even if you feel your financial situation isn't great. Like it or not, relationships can cost money, particularly in the early stages of dating, where entertainment and looking good can eat into and even derail your savings. So while it's great to spend on these things, having financial knowledge means you will be less likely to let your head (and handbag) get too swept up in the clouds of love and into debt.

On the other side of that coin, taking serious steps in long-term relationships – such as opening a combined bank account - require a lot more thought than it is typically given.

New research commissioned by Australia’s largest credit union, CUA, also found close to one in five Australians often just pick the first bank they come across. Many younger Australians simply follow in the footsteps of their parents, or choose the bank their partner is already with.

It’s important to take control and find a financial institution that you can trust to help you navigate your finances as a couple. Member owned organisations like CUA are not only actively working to educate and empower their members to improve their financial wellbeing, but often have lower fees or more competitive rates than many other banks.

I also think that being financially independent and proud of it, can be a real confidence booster for women, especially in this day and age where the quest for financial wellbeing and economic equality is gaining momentum.

2. How soon should you think about having the “money chat” with a partner?

Open and honest communication is key when it comes to talking with your partner on money. And the sooner you have these chats, the better. That said, you probably wouldn't launch into how much you both earn and what your financial plans are on your first or even second date.

But once things start to get serious, it's important to have the chat to ensure you understand each other’s views on money, as well as values and goals and most importantly, whether they align. My top tips for having this chat is to consider the following.

1. Talk openly about your individual financial positions.
2. Understand each other’s values, attitudes and financial goals, particularly whether they are aligned.
3. Identify how financially literate you both are, and areas where further education may be needed.
4.  Talk about the management of joint finances. Who will manage this, and ensure full disclosure?
5. Talk about kids. Do you want them? Do you know the financial impact and how you might want to manage this?
6.  Engage the support of an expert be they paid, or not such as a free financial counsellor or your bank, as a trusted sounding board. Sometimes, people don’t want to take the step of engaging a financial advisor, but a simple alternative is using support services - like the iM CUA banking chat app . This lets you choose a Personal Banker who can chat to you about your financial goals as a couple to help you understand what accounts and products will suit you best.

3. How do you bring it up if your partner is just not good with money?

Some of us are good with money and some just aren’t. If your partner isn't that great, then it's time to have a constructive talk about this. You may find that you are able to help them with suggestions on how they may become better with money.

I encourage all women to be financially savvy whether in a relationship or not.  That could be as simple as routinely tracking your spending in your mobile or online banking, or even setting up different accounts for different purposes like paying the bills, saving for a holiday and everyday spending. GSB has a great Savings Top-up feature  I love that allows you to nominate an amount to squirrel away when you make a purchase from your Everyday account, making it easier to save up for your goals.

It's worth noting that sometimes those who are not good with money also don't want to talk about money. It's important to understand that we all communicate differently and some people just don't like talking about money.

If you suspect that your partner is uneasy talking about money, it's important to ask why and seek first to understand. It may be that you actually need to pencil in time where there are no outside distractions or stresses that can compound the discussion.

4. How do traditional gender roles and stereotypes influence whether men or women take control of household spending?

Unfortunately, because men still earn more on average and more men work full time than women, as we note in the latest Financy Women's Index , the world still assumes that men make the bulk of the finance decisions on everything.

The truth is that this is changing. Women are increasingly more in control of the household spending than men.

Research does however tend to suggest that men still handle the bigger asset purchases (Fidelity International’s Financial Power of Women study), but by and large it is becoming a joint decision and women are much more engaged today than they used to be.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is the founder of the Financy Women's Index and is a financial wellbeing spokesperson for CUA. Bianca’s tips also featured in a recent article on the 9Honey website – you can read it here.

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