June 9, 2014

Financially Mismatched Couples at Risk

Financial planners say it happens all the time: couples who don’t see eye to eye on money matters often break up or divorce. One reason they run into trouble is that a financial mismatch makes it more difficult for them to achieve important goals.  A study of more than 30,000 married and cohabiting couples compared the partners’ individual credit scores to gauge their financial compatibility and found that the larger the disparity between the two of them, the higher the incidence of break-ups. The authors said credit scores are a proxy for financial behavior and also can measure trustworthiness.
To prevent unhappy endings, three suggestions for new couples:
  • Cards on the table. To identify potential problems, each partner must know how much the other one earns and what they spend their money on – whether it’s her penchant for $800 shoes or his mortgage that’s chewing up half of his income. This should be a “no-penalty conversation” free of acrimony or blame.
  • Shared mental accounting. Couples too often act as if they’re still single – not as one household. Consider a couple with $100 in the bank. He goes to the hardware store and spends $100, and she goes to garden store and spends $100. They’ve just spent more than they have.
  • Shared bookkeeping. The best way to understand how and where money is being spent is to pore over the bills, the checking account, or the mortgage and investment statements. Partners should take turns handling the household finances.

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