Many American’s have magical thinking when it comes to the intersection of their hearts and wallets. Unhealthy attitudes about love and money are fueled from an early age. Young children are told classic fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The morale of these stories is a woman should wait to be emotionally and financially rescued by her prince, and to be an attractive man, you need to be filthy rich. In reality, partners need to work together to make, manage and invest their money.
Sounds simple, but it’s complicated.
Money represents more than dollars and cents and frequently is used to express feelings in relationships. It can be given to express love, power and respect or withheld to punish, control or humiliate. It’s no wonder adults fall into money traps when it comes to love.
The first step in successfully navigating the tricky land of couples and money is to be aware of the common mistakes many romantic partners make.
Here are the top five blunders:
1. Believing that “love conquers all”
While it sounds romantic, the truth is that it takes a lot more than loving someone to successfully manage money as a couple. It takes hard work and a commitment by both partners to talk openly about their different viewpoints on spending, saving and investing.
Couples who enjoy a peaceful relationship with money often have shared values, an appreciation for their partner’s diverse viewpoint and the ability to find common ground, even when it’s difficult. While loving your partner helps, it is not a guarantee that you will live happily every after financially.
2. Practicing money silence
Money silence occurs when couples fail to talk openly about money. This code of silence is passed down from generation to generation and leads to miscommunication, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It is the reason many marriages end in divorce and why so many children become financially unprepared adults. Breaking the money silence may not be easy, but it truly is a gift to yourself and the next generation.
3. Avoiding financial conflict
In a survey done by CESI Debt Solutions, 80 percent of spouses admitted to hiding some financial purchases from their partners. The primary motivator: avoiding a fight in hopes that the problem will go away. However, when you don’t openly discuss money to prevent a fight, you miss an opportunity to understand your partner’s perspective and resolve a problem.
Ultimately, the same problem comes up again and again. The truth is, engaging in a financial conflict from time to time is healthy and increases intimacy in a marriage. So the next time you have the urge to avoid a financial disagreement, take a deep breath and think again.
4. Waiting to be financially rescued
Putting your financial future in the hands of your partner may sound nice, but it is a risky proposition. If your loved one gets ill, suddenly dies or decides to leave you, the safety blanket of being taken care of is abruptly ripped out from under you.
While being financially rescued can happen to both men and women, women fall victim to this mistake more often. Many divorcees and widows end up in their financial advisor’s office overwhelmed by grief and uncertain how to pay the bills. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike to take adult responsibility around your money—do it now.
5. Meeting with your financial advisor alone
Life is busy, and couples often use the divide-and-conquer strategy for getting tasks done. Delegating daily duties, such as grocery shopping and taking out the trash, is one thing, but entrusting one partner to meet with your financial advisor to invest your money is another. Schedule joint appointments, and invest the time in this important aspect of your relationship.
Working with your advisor together gives you a place to talk about money, resolve financial differences and make decisions about your future as a team. It also ensures that if something happens to one of you, the other person is not left in the dark. Besides, it’s one of the best ways to avoid big money mistakes and keep love and money in their proper places.
—By Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, special to CNBC.com. Ms. Kingsbury is the founder of KBK Wealth Connection and author of “How to Give Financial Advice to Couples.”