“Finances play a role in determining marital happiness, and conversely, marital happiness and stability influence a client’s long term financial plan,” was part of the conclusion of a study on money and marital happiness published in the August 2015 Journal of Financial Planning (the JFP study). Marital happiness and money agreement, it shows, are linked to a degree that if one is doing well, the other is inclined to follow. Unfortunately, the reverse is true, too. Frequency of money arguments has been found in past studies to be a predictor of divorce; and this more recent study supports that conclusion, too.
According to another survey, published in June 2014’s Money magazine, of all age groups, couples in their 30s have the most arguments about money. Argument frequency declines as couples age; and moreso if they have no children, or no children at home. But interestingly, both studies show that money arguments have nothing to do with levels of income. Whether couples are barely scraping by, or living large, if the couple isn’t on the same page about money, more of it won’t make the relationship any better.
There are many tools and resources available for couples who want to work on a better relationship with money. One that I use in my practice are Money Habitudes(TM) cards, by Professor Syble Solomon. The cards help bring awareness to our money “scripts” and how they differ between partners. There are also too many books to mention here – but email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a resource list.
Financial professionals can be of some help to couples struggling with money issues, but sometimes a financial therapist or mental health professional is needed to work on other factors that contribute to marital happiness first – such as self-esteem; perceived control over one’s life; and agreement about chores and children – the two topics in the JFP study that beat out money in the top 3 for argument frequency.
There is no denying it – the relationship we have with money itself sets the tone for the relationships we have with significant others. It’s in everyone’s best interest to do what we can to improve it.