7 myths regarding couples and money

By Larissa Fernand |  14-02-22 | 

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert and author of several books. Here she busts some myths.

Myth: It is not right to bring up money talks before marriage.

When couples get engaged, that's a great starting point--an opportunity to talk not only about how you want to share your lives together, but how to live well financially.

However, there are opportunities at every life stage for couples to communicate about money. When a parent passes away or when a child is born.

Estate planning is another important issue, and unfortunately most couples don't do it soon enough.

The great opportunity is to have the conversation well before you think you will need it. A crisis is not the best time for making financial decisions.

We live in a society where talking about money is taboo, even with your significant other. Couples will avoid having financial conversations because they bring on conflict. Many of us were raised to not talk about money, even with loved ones. That gets in the way of developing a plan, and it gets in the way of honest communication. Financial conflict can even lead to divorce.

Myth: Love conquers all.

We're told that if you absolutely love someone, that conquers all. But you can love someone and be very different financially. That's not necessarily bad, but if you can't work it through, that causes conflict and split-ups. Moving to mature love is learning how to negotiate, talk, and manage together.

Myth: Love means never having to say you're sorry.

Saying "I'm sorry" when there's a disagreement is really important as a way to forgive and move on. A great gift you can give your partner, if you get upset with something he or she has done with money, is to be able to look at why it was so upsetting for you, given your own history with money. Couples can talk this through themselves, or an adviser can help them to understand it. Why is it that a couple has the same fight over and over about what car to buy? Maybe it's not the 30,000 price tag, but how each of them grew up--in one person's family, a car was something important, and in the other it wasn't.

Myth: Happily married couples are open and honest about money.

A very high percentage of spouses actually lie about purchases they have made, or hide them. Women hide accessory and clothing purchases; men tend to hide music and liquor. Do read Financial Infidelity: Cheating by any other name.

Myth: Couples should always agree about money.

First, that almost never happens. And there are some real benefits in having different perspectives about money. Perhaps one spouse is more of a saver and the other more a spender; if you respect the differences, you can learn from one another and draw on one another's strengths. Over time, you can find some middle ground, where maybe one loosens up and the other learns to save more.

Myth: Women need to be rescued financially.

Even some women buy in to the idea that we need to be rescued financially--we bide our time, have a career, do whatever we need to do to get by, and Prince Charming will save us. I'm not saying that you shouldn't trust your partner, but you never know what will happen. Divorce or premature death can leave a woman in the driver's seat unexpectedly. Women are more economically powerful than ever before. But many of us have ambivalence about financial power.

Myth: Men are savvy; women are naive.

The common assumption is that guys have it together financially and women don't. What ends up happening is men are socialized to not show weakness. They may not understand something, but they're not socialized to ask questions because they think it will make them seem vulnerable.

More and more women are the breadwinners in their households now. We assume that means women will act like men when it comes to planning, but women still tend to be more collaborative with money management. This speaks to the fact that women are socialized differently than men. It will be interesting to see if there's a change in that approach as women shoulder even more of the income-generating burden in households.

Excerpts of a conversation between author Mark Miller and Kathleen Burns Kingsbury.

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