How to handle money and relationships

Relationships Australia says financial stress is the number one cause of relationship breakdown.

Let’s face it, money talk in any relationship or friendship can be a mood killer. When the dreaded money topic comes up it’s normal to try and shrink into your shirt and hope the conversation soon turns to fun things like happy hour and buffalo mozzarella.

 I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we need to talk about money.

How you deal with money can impact your relationships. In fact Relationships Australia says financial stress is the number one cause of relationship breakdown. I’d wager that if it were more socially acceptable to be open about money, fewer people would struggle with debt.

What’s the answer?

It’s complicated, but an open and honest conversation is 100 percent necessary.

A quick whip around the office revealed the money issues we’ve all dealt with in our various relationships and how we’ve approached tough conversations…

The friends who love to spend

When I was younger a lot of my friends earnt more than I did. It felt like they wanted to go to expensive bars, eat at new restaurants and go on expensive holidays. Stuff I couldn’t afford to do all the time if I wanted to save and not go into credit card debt. So quite often I would overspend so I could ‘hang out’.

Naturally you want to see your mates, but unless they pay your bills for you, an open and honest conversation is a must.

Talk to the person you’re closest to and ask them to put the brakes on the group spending and make your other friends more aware.

Or you may need to be the social secretary. Organise nights out with an emphasis on ‘let’s keep it cheap and cheerful’.

Humour may be more your style, when the Whatsapp group messages start for luxury holidays make a joke about the second job you’ll need to pay for it.

Frankly if they’re true friends they’ll understand and will happily scale back the spending occasionally. If they refuse then it might be time to find new friends.

The partner who keeps finances secret

Sound the alarm bells if your partner refuses to discuss their financial situation. It’s easy in the throes of love to overlook this, but if you plan to share your life with someone who won’t talk about money, you need to question why.

It may be they’re in debt and don’t want you to know (you need to know!). Even more sinister, some people use money as a form of power and control.

If it’s the former understand that debt can be transmitted to you. If you share the rental lease the owner can come after you for money if your partner stops paying.

Shared bank accounts and credit cards can make you vulnerable if you’re not 100% across what is being bought. A shared mortgage could cripple you financially if your partner suddenly has a tax bill they haven’t paid for years.

I don’t want to scaremonger, but if you don’t understand how your potential life partner affords to live, come up for air, and ask the important questions. It will make your relationship stronger.

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The partner who won’t engage with finances

“It’s boring”, “I don’t get it”, “But you do it so well”… classic lines from the partner who won’t have a bar of it.

If your partner spends with zero awareness of how much comes in and goes out, you need to make it relatable to them. For example if they’re a foodie who loves to eat out at new restaurants, you could say ‘when you spend this much eating out everyday, there’s no money left to pay the energy bills and the power will be cut off’.

Keep in mind many people despise finance because they think they’re ‘not good at maths’. I don’t joke when I say PTSD from maths being taught badly in school is a thing. You might need to take a softly-softly approach.

Keep trying and insist on visibility. Of course in many relationships responsibilities are split with one partner in charge of finance. Yet it’s still important you both have a clear idea of how your joint finances are managed and where money goes.

The freeloader mate

We all have them… the friend who painstakingly divides a restaurant bill because their meal was $4 less, the friend that goes MIA when it’s their round at the bar or the friend you always chase for money.

First consider if the issue is actually to do with affordability (see section above). If it’s not and you judge that it’s become a deal breaker the best approach is tactfully being upfront. Say you’ve noticed money is sometimes an issue and you were wondering if there is a reason.

Yes, it’s a super awkward conversation, they’ll probably get a bit defensive, but this type of behaviour can be destructive to friendships.

Good luck!

If you choose to confront money issues directly in your relationships and friendships, you will create stronger connections. The more people willing to talk about money and finances our wider communities will benefit.

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Communications & PR

Lauren is Stockspot's head of PR and communications. She helps us minimise the jargon and maximise the info that matters most to clients. She believes investing and creating financial security shouldn't be scary, difficult or only for those with a finance degree.

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