Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. That's why Bustle launched Grown-A$$ Finances, a series that gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your money should feel empowering, not intimidating.
There are lots of different struggles relationships can face and a lot of methods to cope with relationship stress, but one issue seems to come up over and over again. According to a new survey of 5,000 people by UK couples counseling centers Relate, Relationships Scotland, and Marriage Care, there is one topic that stresses couples out more than any other — and that's money. Over one-quarter of respondents said that it was their main source of relationship stress. But still, I find that it's one of the topics my friends are the least comfortable speaking about with their partners.
"Talking about money can also be a challenge because it’s symbolic of so much more," Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest and author of the New York Times Bestseller, Financially Fearless, tells Bustle. "Rather than just being about dollars and cents, an honest money chat is a much more intimate reveal of beliefs and values, expressed through how you spend. The discussion can and should eventually lead to your biggest dreams, hopes, and fears, so young couples can feel vulnerable when discussing those topics with each other —especially if it’s the first time they’ve broached them in a romantic relationship."
Talking about finances is so important, but it's only the first step toward managing money in a long-term relationship. Here's how to tackle it together:
1Start Talking About It Early On
A strong foundation can go a long way when it comes to money issues. “Money is a major cause of anxiety in relationships,” New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. “People are not usually honest about money — until there is a problem.”
If you start communicating about money — concerns, debt, or even how you spend it — before the worst case scenario, you'll be stronger and more likely to be on the same page.
2Come Up With An Equitable Way To Share Debt
Systems help. “Some couples take on different elements of the household,” McCurdy tells Bustle. “As new debt accrues, one partner or the other agrees to take responsibility for paying the bill.”
But sometimes it can make it easier if you think beyond splitting money 50/50. You can divide up expenses based off of income, you can have a joint account or separate accounts, one person can put in more for things that matter to them that the other partner doesn't care about— like eating at expensive restaurants. Find a way that makes sense for both of you.
3Don't Be Afraid Of The Big-Picture
Don't just talk about dollars and cents, think about what it signifies. “Talking about money is immensely important,” Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth, tells Bustle. “Studies show that spending habits and money decisions are a very clear indicator of your values and priorities in life. So if you and your partner have vastly different spending habits and you don't have a system in place to manage the difference, it's likely there will be conflicts in other areas of life as well.”
If you can get to the root of how you both deal with money and what it means big picture, you're more likely to understand each other.
Thinking about your big-picture savings goals is really helpful. Talk about things that are important to both of you — saving for a vacation or a house or a college fund. If you both feel like money is going towards something that you both really want, it'll make the stress of it more bearable.
5Set Up Automatic Savings
If you decide on what you want to save for, automatic savings are a godsend. I just started investing through automatic savings— and I'm more successful at it than I ever have been before. Set it up so money automatically goes into a separate account or fund every month, then neither of you will be tempted to spend money you should be keeping.
6Focus On Your Compatibility
There are different ways that we view money — in fact, some experts say there are eight different types. And learning yours can help you find your compatibility. "Knowing the characteristics of these archetypes is essential to understanding what drives them and has them make the decisions they make with money — like avoiding opening bank statements or jumping into a get-rich-quick scheme — and what you can do to shift those behaviors to more successful outcomes," Emily Bouchard, a certified money coach, tells Bustle.
Money can be a relationship killer, but there are a lot of ways to cope or prevent financial issues. Making sure that you're open and focusing on solutions is the first step towards keep money stress at bay.
Check out the “Grown-A$$ Finances” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.