Published August 24, 2012
Whether you’ve just gotten engaged or you’re about to enter your golden years, you and your significant other will fight about money at some point during your happy ever-after.
According to the new study, "Why Couples Clash" conducted by Chase Card Services and the XO Group, three out of four married couples disagree about money and expenses. But it’s not the “I Do’ that prompts the disagreements, more than half of all engaged couples—55%— argue over whether their wedding is the best use of their funds.
“Couples should expect to occasionally fight about money,” says Rebecca Dolgin, vice president and executive editor at XO Group. “It’s 100% normal and you're not doomed.”
For engaged couples, fighting about money often boils down to agreeing on priorities and sticking to a budget, says Dolgin.
“You’ve got to track what you're spending, and take a little comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Couples go through this every day. It’s stressful, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Half of all engaged couples who fight about money—49%—fight because they realize they don’t have the money they need to plan the wedding they want.
“Most weddings today cost $40,000, and in middle America, that’s a down payment on a house,"says Nick Stuller, President and CEO of Advice IQ, a directory of financial advisors. "Couples need to think hard about that. If one half of the couple would rather scrap the wedding and keep the money, then this is the point where financial advisors often become couples therapists or even referees."
Once the wedding is over, Dolgin says that newly married couples “have it the worst” because they’re starting to navigate joint financial issues for the first time.
“They’re looking into joint bank accounts, monthly bills, and they’re trying to decide who the family CEO will be. They’ve merged their money together and they’ve got to figure out what their spending styles are going to be.”
While some money arguments boil down simply to one person wanting to spend and another wanting to save, more often it’s the long-term financial goals that come into play, says Rachana Bhatt, director of Chase Card Services.
“You start out your life independently, and when you come together it becomes something totally different,” says Bhatt. “You have to get on the same page for the long haul, and you need to make a blueprint for what you want, starting with a budget.”
One major variable in the financial future “blueprint” can be children, Bhatt says. According to the survey, more than half of all couples expecting a baby—58%—say they were not financially secure when they got pregnant. One-third of all pregnant couples reported arguing about whether or not they can afford their baby, and 30% admit to having worries over whether or not they can properly provide for their children.
“If you look at how much it costs to have a baby just in the first year, it’s staggering,” says Bhatt. “Nevermind that [the cost] grows exponentially every year after that. With that said, it’s rare that you find a couple that feels 100% financially secure when their first baby arrives.”
Even though financial worries can cause a lot of stress for young families, Bhatt says that waiting to have children isn’t always the right answer.
“You should be aware of what the expenses are, but you shouldn’t have to feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, college tuition is $50,000 a year and I have to have that money right now” says Bhatt. “You have time to save and plan. ”
However, the budgeting decisions a couple makes when their children are infants often mirror the decisions made once the children grow. If you aren’t happy with the way your spouse handles the budget for baby, it’s best to discuss it early in order to change course.
“The approach to cribs and carseats now will likely be the same approach to cars and college tuition down the line,” says Bhatt. You have to make sure you’re comfortable with the budgeting decisions you make as you move through life as parents.”