Couples are being encouraged to speak more openly about their finances after a national survey found more than a quarter of us had lied to or been deceived by our partners about money.
Research from consumer comparison site Finder found that 14 per cent of Australians had lied about money in a relationship while another 14 per cent said their partners had lied to them.
Finder’s survey of 1004 Australians also found that men were more than twice as likely to lie about money – with 20 per cent admitting to deceiving their partners compared to just 9 per cent of women – while women were more likely to hide secret purchases.
Relationships Australia NSW CEO Elisabeth Shaw said financial conflict was one of the key causes of relationship breakdown and often reflected deeper philosophical differences.
“It’s often about the value of money and how it represents life goals and personal life philosophies. So in that way money issues bring alive certain aspects of our personalities,” Ms Shaw told The New Daily.
So while on the surface it looks as though couples are arguing about misspent dollars, it’s more about differing life ambitions and world views, she said.
“It might be that one person craves security, and so they want lots of money in the bank, while the other person craves adventure, and so they want to be able to spend as they earn,” Ms Shaw said.
The key to overcoming these differences is to broach the topic of money as early as possible in the relationship and to schedule regular catchups to keep on the same page.
Ms Shaw advised couples to focus on the goals and philosophical drivers behind their behaviours so that each party could better understand their partner’s spending patterns without judging them.
She said it was also crucial for couples early on to determine the extent to which they’d like to manage their money independently, to prevent any nasty surprises down the track.
“Discussing your philosophy about money rather than your spending patterns is also just a more interesting topic to have,” she said.
“And certainly talking about what goals you have and how money is a part of those goals is important.”
Certified Financial Planner Gianna Thomson also emphasised the importance of being upfront and transparent with our partners.
She said it was important to set clear goals and recommended couples grant each other “argument-free money” every month to maintain some of our independence.
“How we spend that money is completely up to us,” she said, noting that her and her husband had adopted this system.
Ms Thomson also recommended that couples agree on how much they would like to spend on groceries and dining out, and to deposit this amount of money each month into a separate joint bank account.
“Then, whoever goes to the grocery store uses that account. Or if you go to a restaurant, you use that account. That way, there’s no IOUs,” she said.
Couples could also set up a separate joint account for household bills. Ms Thomson said allocating set amounts into separate accounts with distinct purposes made it harder to overspend.
But the financial planner was also keen to stress that if couples were struggling to come to an agreement over their finances, they should seek advice from a third-party mediator – advice backed by Ms Shaw.
Ms Shaw said this person could either be a relationship counsellor or a certified financial planner.