01 Oct How to Handle Financial Stress in your Relationship
It’s no secret that money problems can be a huge source of relationship strife — in fact, most surveys report money as the main source of stress in a relationship, and it’s easy to see why. If the money isn’t there, it can seep into every part of your life and affect every part of your day. From grocery shopping, to a friend’s birthday, to what you think about before you go to sleep, money is always there. It’s an incredibly difficult scenario to be in — but new research shows that it affects some of us more than others.
Recent research from The Harris Poll and Ally Bank surveyed more than 1,400 American adults about where their relationship stress was coming from. Unsurprisingly, money came out on top. But in an interesting twist, the research found that young Americans were twice as likely as older Americans to say that money was the biggest cause of stress. While 44 percent of the younger adult group pointed to money, only 23 percent of the older adults said the same. With housing prices skyrocketing in recent decades and a pool of student loan debt you could drown in, Millennials are feeling the financial strain far more than Baby Boomers.
The most difficult part? Well, as we know, money doesn’t grow on trees. If you’re already stretched to your limit and an unexpected bill lands on your door, there’s no magic fix. But there are things you can do to help keep money stress from wrecking your relationship. Here’s what you need to know:
Many of us are not financially savvy — because we simply didn’t receive the education. For some reason, we spent way more time on the Pythagorean theorem than learning about how to save money or file our taxes (and it’s pretty obvious which one we actually need as adults). If you haven’t already learned how to do these things, then you need to educate yourself. And, if your partner’s spending is stressing you out, remember that they probably need some help, too. “Most of the time, bad money habits come from either a lack of education because this stuff isn’t taught in school — which isn’t your fault of your partner’s,” Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth, a wealth management company, told Brides. “Seek out education and advice so you can see the financial impact of current behavior on your future self.” This might mean seeing a financial advisor, if you’re in a position to do so. If money’s too tight for that, start by checking out some money-saving websites and basic financial advice. There’s so much available online, so use it!
Talk About Money — Think “Little And Often”
Talking about money can take on a larger-than-life quality in some relationships. Maybe you never talk about it and you don’t know where to start — or maybe money is so stressful that every time it comes up it sends you both towards a meltdown. Either way, it’s time to normalize talking money. Start discussing it as early as you can in a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be in these huge, awkward conversations. “Little and often” is how you should talk about money, with small comments that bring it up on a regular basis. Whether it’s, “I’m really tight this month, do you mind if we don’t go out for dinner?” to “I really want to sort out my 401k and I don’t know where to start” or even, “I don’t think we can afford as big of a trip this year, should we sit down and crunch the numbers?” These little moments will normalize how you talk about money, so you’ll be in a better position for the big conversations.
Look At Your Shared Expenses
If you and your partner are serious, it may be time to have a look at your shared expenses. Maybe you each pay for a couple of the bills, maybe you transfer money into a joint account every month. Either way, going through the numbers together and looking for ways to save money — like changing to a new gas or electric company or cancelling that cable subscription you don’t use — can be a good way to open up the conversation about money and make sure you’re on the same page.
The best thing you can do to relieve your money stress it to start saving — yes, right now. It may not be a lot, it may seem totally insignificant, but it can be something. Even just twenty dollars a month adds up to $240 over the course of the year — which is a nice little cushion to have. If you have the means, putting a little away for retirement and a little away for money for something fun — a trip, a new purchase, or a house deposit — will help incentivize you to save.
Focus On An Emergency Fund First
Although day-to-day money stress can be excruciating, a lot of the panic and frustration comes in when you get an unexpected expense. The car breaks down, your child needs a filling, or you need a plumber to come and fix that hole that’s gotten way too big — whatever it is, it can be incredibly stressful and throw your entire equilibrium out of whack. If you can get together an emergency fund of even a few hundred dollars (more if you can afford it), you’ll be covered when an unexpected bill hits. Just make sure you replenish your emergency fund as quickly as you can.
If money is tight for you and your partner, it’s totally normal for that to be a source of stress — but it doesn’t have to ruin your relationship. Educate yourself about managing your finances and get comfortable talking about money — because that’s half the battle.
Written by Bliss therapist Kelly McDonnell-Arnold.
We know that talking to your partner about money can be uncomfortable, and having a third party to help navigate these difficult conversations can be extremely helpful! Our Bliss therapists are happy to help! Book an appointment here.