Love and money

5 ways money talk can strengthen relationships

While discussing money may not feel romantic, it certainly is emotional and requires some pre-planning for the best outcome.

February 14, 2017
Dan Prebish

Dan Prebish is the head of the Life Event Services team at Wells Fargo Advisors which offers practical financial-planning insights for marriage, divorce, births, home purchases and sales, elder care, retirement, new jobs, and other life changes.

Before making the decision to join finances, couples should first make time for money talk.

Whether in the early stage of a relationship, just starting to get serious, or about to get married, having conversations about spending habits and financial goals will help — not hurt – a relationship, and will build a solid foundation for the future.

How so? Read on.

Love and money

1. Healthy money talk defuses relationship land mines. One of the most important underlying elements of a successful relationship is the ability to manage money. Talking about things like cash flow may sound boring and unromantic, but financial experts agree unaddressed and underlying disputes about money are a relationship land mine. In fact, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly one-third of adults with partners identify money as a major source of relational conflict. It’s no wonder, considering more than half of American adults are struggling financially, according to a report by the Center for Financial Services Innovation. Establishing healthy financial habits together lays the groundwork for a successful relationship.

2. Managing finances together builds trust and predictability. Couples thinking about merging their finances should determine a process that works for both of them. Who will manage the day-to-day budget? Who will pay the bills? Who will keep an eye on the retirement plans? Whether combining accounts or maintaining separate accounts (Wells Fargo’s 2016 “How America Buys and Borrows” survey found couples are roughly evenly divided between the two methods), both partners must understand how their financial habits are impacting — positively or negatively — the life they’re building and goals they’re trying to meet.

3. Openness about financial goals can strengthen the relationship. Couples can use money talk as an opportunity to set priorities and track goals together. Topics that can help open the door to meaningful conversations include:

  • Amount of debt each person is comfortable with
  • Plan to pay down debt
  • Individual credit scores

4. Joint budgeting helps couples make room for fun extras. Building a solid financial future together doesn’t mean giving up on the things each partner enjoys in life. When couples have a common understanding of how they’ll prioritize and manage housing, groceries, utilities, and other costs, they can also plan how to splurge. Wells Fargo offers tips for financial health with ideas to make small changes that can add up to big results.

5. Honesty about finances helps avoid financial surprises. Openness and honesty between significant others helps avoid any financial surprises that could add unnecessary stress to the relationship. Birthday surprises are fun; finding out your partner hasn’t paid the rent is not.

‘We need to talk’: Getting started

While discussing money may not feel romantic, it certainly is emotional and requires some pre-planning for the best outcome. Stumped and don’t know where to start? Try these tips:

  1. Admit the conversation can feel awkward, but commit to having it anyway.
  2. Pick the right time. A candlelit Valentine’s Day dinner may not be the right moment, so pick a mutually agreeable time to talk.
  3. Be open with each other. Talk about each person’s spending and savings habits, as well as relationship goals.
  4. Keep at it. When creating a healthy habit of talking about money, credit, and goals, each conversation will feel more natural and less forced.

When money talk plays an essential role in a relationship, couples can get on the same financial page before joining financial forces.


Wells Fargo Advisors is not a tax or legal advisor. Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC, members FINRA/SIPC, registered broker-dealers and non-bank affiliates of Wells Fargo and Company. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.
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