She Makes Money Moves is a new podcast from Glamour and iHeartRadio. Hosted by Glamour editor-in-chief Samantha Barry, the podcast shares intimate, unscripted stories from women across the country along with advice from financial experts to help guide those women—and women everywhere—forward. Download a new episode every Tuesday, then visit glamour.com/money for an article like this, with more insights from that week’s expert.
According to a recent survey, money is a greater source of relationship tension than sex. Money can be such a deal-breaker that nearly one-quarter of participants said they’d broken up with a partner over financial concerns. And 58 percent of the people surveyed said that they’d rather stay single than shack up with someone who’s bad with their budget. When it comes to relationships, money matters. But if you’re honest with your partner about your finances—warts and all—it can be something that brings you together, instead of driving you apart.
In this week’s episode of She Makes Money Moves, “Equal Partners With Unequal Paychecks,” Sam Barry spoke with a woman who earns less than half of what her husband makes. While her husband doesn’t push her to make more, she still feels guilty. So she over-compensates by doing all of the housework—even after working a full day. Barry welcomed on financial expert Stefanie O’Connell to discuss her experience and how other women can have a healthier financial relationship with their partner. Here O’Connell shares her best tips.
Have a “money date”
Gender dynamics and economic roles may be shifting, but when it comes to managing money, the golden rule of relationships still stands—talk about it. Unfortunately, a lot of us only talk about money when it’s already become a point of tension or conflict in our relationships. Unsurprisingly, these emotionally heated moments are not the best time to try talking to our partner about money for the first time. Set yourself up for success by picking a time and place dedicated to a calm and constructive money conversation, or a “money date.”
As you start sharing financial details with your partner, it’s important to dig into any details or differences that might require further conversation. Not just differences in income, but differences in credit, debt, spending values, etc. Essentially, any financial detail that has the potential to affect both of you needs to be discussed. For example, if your partner has bad credit and you’re going to be moving in together, you’ll want to know that before you go apartment hunting and start filling out lease or mortgage applications.
Reviewing your credit reports together can also tell you whether your partner is making an effort to improve their financial habits, or whether missing payments and skipping out on bills is a persistent problem. Sharing this kind of information can point to potential pain points in your financial future together and give you an opportunity to work through them as a team. It’s important to remember that this process isn’t about judging or criticizing your partner, it’s about figuring out ways you can help each other and your relationship grow. If your partner fears judgment or shame around their money habits, you can help them open up by sharing your own financial fears and mistakes. These are hard conversations, but being compassionate and supportive with one another will serve you, your relationship and your finances. Failing to talk about these financial details and keeping things hidden like overspending and secret debt can be a breeding ground for fights, and break down the trust that’s essential for the growth of your relationship.
On the flip side, open and honest discussions of your financial failures and goals can bond you as a team, even when you disagree, by building a foundation for you to handle problems together.
Make a game plan for expenses
As far as how you’ll share expenses, especially with different incomes, you have to decide what works for you. Like all personal choices, there’s no one right way to do it. The only “right way” is the one you and your partner agree on—and what’s right for you now may not be right for you in six months. So it’s important to revisit these conversations by scheduling “money dates” regularly. Maybe you split your expenses 50/50 as you start living together or maybe you contribute to shared household expenses as a percentage of your relative incomes. Then, maybe you get married and decide to live off of one partner’s income while putting the rest in savings. Whatever you decide, it’s important that you’re both involved in the process.
Don’t leave all financial planning to one partner
Be wary of having only one partner handle all financial matters. Not only can this be disempowering, in some cases, it can set you up to be a victim of financial abuse. For example, your partner may use your money without your permission or use your identity to gain access to credit and loans or refuse you access to your money without going through him or her. So whatever jobs you choose for yourselves in the context of your shared money management strategy, it’s essential that you both be involved. It’s not enough to make a plan, then pass it on to one partner while the other tunes out completely. While you can experiment with delegating various financial tasks and how you split and share your financial responsibilities, the key is making sure you’re both involved in all aspects of your financial life and putting together a framework that works for both of you.