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How to keep the love in your relationship by keeping money stress out

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Money is one of the main causes of stress on relationships, so how do you ensure you are able to maintain your relationship and manage your money? And what do you do if you and your partner are not on the same page when it comes to money matters?

It starts with understanding and communication. This can be a difficult topic to raise so start by observing your partner - their spending habits, the things they say about money and wealth, and even their upbringing can you give you some insight. Our behaviour is often shaped by our past experiences and no two people are alike.

Sit down and look at your budget (jointly if you can). You need to know what income comes in, and what expenses you have.  Your expenses can be divided into a few categories.  Things like rent, fuel, food are essential, so these ones have to be paid for - they are generally not negotiable.

how to deal with money stress in your relationship

Then we have the nice things - going out to dinner, clothes, personal grooming, etc.  These are nice to have but not essential and often the area we need to put under the microscope when we are trying to save.

The third category is goals, and this includes the things that take some time to work towards like a holiday or for your future retirement.  If there is no surplus, go back through nice things and look at ways to cut these down: take lunch to work instead of buying it, go for a run instead of paying for a gym membership. Make sure this is realistic or you won't stick with it.

You should also aim to have a cash buffer account, for unexpected circumstances or emergencies.  This should not get touched unless you have an emergency, and then the priority is to build it back up.

If you have hooked up with a spender, you may have to take the initiative when it comes to money.  Try and agree on some joint goals such as a holiday fund or saving for a property.  Give your spender some room for freedom.

I suggest people have three bank accounts, one for you, one for them, and a joint one for shared expenses and goals. As long as your spender meets the contribution to the joint account, you don't have to worry about the incidentals. When it comes to spenders you have to aim for them to be reasonable, not rational.

If your relationship or life stage is more established, it may be time to consider forced savings.  Forced savings can involve several different strategies, depending on your goals and life stage.

For those trying to save for a home deposit, try utilising the First Home Super Scheme - this allows you to tax effectively save for the purchase of a home by utilising voluntary contributions, through for instance salary sacrifice, plus allocated earnings that you can withdraw at a later stage to fund the deposit or purchase your first home.  There are some eligibility requirements so do your homework or seek professional advice.

For those closer to retirement, salary sacrifice to superannuation is a wonderful way to save for your future income needs.  The great thing is, the money is taken from your wages before you even see it - therefore your spender won't even know what they are missing.

Forced savings can also include things like purchasing an investment property, it's amazing how willing we are to meet a loan repayment, yet we seem to struggle to put cash aside for a rainy day. The same can be said for a share portfolio with a regular savings plan attached.  The money is invested on a monthly basis via automatic direct debit and there you have your money working for you.

Forced savings strategies should be considered in line with your financial goals and plans as each strategy will have its pros and cons.  Seeking advice can also help couples plan and set goals, a skilled financial adviser is also able to act as your money mediator, which takes the pressure off anyone party in the relationship.

Some relationships may be the opposite to living with a spender - living with a controller.  These people will quickly establish control over the relationship and your access to money.  It is common in households where one person may be involved in the caregiving and not contributing to the household financially.

There can be conflict over what is mine versus what is ours. It is important to have access to your own money and ensure everyone understands their roles and contributions to the household unit. Insist on maintaining your own account to give you some freedom. If investments are being made on your behalf make sure you understand and agree to the terms.  If you are worried reach out to a service professional like National Debt Helpline.

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Tanya Carlson is a financial adviser at Amplify Wealth Management and has a Masters in Financial Planning.
Comments
Richard B
February 15, 2021 11.17am

Heed the excellent advice from Tanya. I went through an unexpected grey divorce having a shared account which my pay went into for over 25 years. Lost the nice family home and I was told I was lucky to get a 40% share of assets i.e. my own super (accum. fund) plus some cash for a deposit. You just don't get to bounce back financially, emotionally and psychologically in your later years. 'Once bitten twice shy' as the song goes.

David Wright
February 14, 2021 9.10pm

Nobody gets a gold medal without a coach Tanya's suggestion to get help from a professional is such good advice. Most people find it really hard to make the decision to pay someone else to help them succeed with money when they are experiencing difficult financial times but it is a critical decision.

Choosing the right professional will depend a lot on your current circumstances. If you are in heaps of debt, choose a debt counsellor, if your income is good and debt is not out of control, but you're continually pulling up short each week you would be better of choosing a spending planner, and if you are on top of your day to day finances with no bad debt and looking to leverage your position you would ideally choose a financial planner.

Trying to get money right on your own is almost impossible. We are all too close to our own situation to see what someone looking from the outside in can see quite clearly so while making the decision can be difficult, it's one you really should make!

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