Clark Howard’s 5 Money Tips for Couples

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You’ve met that special someone. You know, that person who makes your heart flutter and ties your stomach in knots.

Financial disagreements in a relationship can tie any stomach into a knot too. Fortunately, money expert Clark Howard has advice to avoid that kind of discomfort.

5 Money Tips for Couples

MarketWatch and NBC News report that issues with money are causes for trouble in relationships.

Clark agrees: “Relationships are more likely to break down and trust to be destroyed based on what goes on with finances with a couple than virtually any other thing, he says.”

Clark has five money tips for couples to follow to help avoid financial disagreements.

Assume Your Partner Comes From a Different Financial Background

Clark says that, often, people come into relationships with very different histories and attitudes about money.

He says you shouldn’t expect your partner to share your beliefs about money just because you’re in love. Avoiding that mistake is his first money tip for couples.

“You want to be careful putting yourself in a position where you assume that your loved one, your partner, your spouse, that they’ve got great attitudes and use of money and you add them as an authorized user to one of your cards,” says Clark. “And the next thing you know, there’s a zillion charges because you thought they were like you with money, but they are not at all.”

Don’t learn the hard way that your significant other views money differently than you do. Assume from the start that your financial opinions are not going to be completely aligned.

Talk About Your Financial Goals

After realizing you and your partner may differ in the way you view your finances, you’re ready to follow Clark’s next money tip for couples: begin a conversation. 

Exploring your financial differences as a couple can be awkward at first, but Clark has a non-threatening way to get started. He suggests that you start the conversation by asking your significant other for general life goals such as where they envision being in 30 years.

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“If their goal is to be retired, and your goal is just to spend your money, y’all got something that you gotta really talk about and work through,” says Clark.

He stresses that these differences likely won’t be solved in just one talk. It may take an ongoing conversation to become more compatible with your loved one about finances.

Ask Difficult Questions

Once the conversation has begun, Clark says you shouldn’t be afraid to ask challenging questions. Following this money tip before getting married or moving in together could prevent heartache later.

“This isn’t about obsessing about money, but it’s about getting each of your cards on the table — figuratively and literally,” says Clark. “‘What’s your credit story? What credit cards do you have? How do you use them? Do you owe anybody any money? What’s going on with your overall credit picture? Got any debt collectors after you?’

“These are things that people are reluctant to ask and reluctant to discuss but can be a poison in a relationship.”

There are a lot of difficult but necessary financial topics for you and your loved one to answer prior to making a long-term commitment to each other. Clark.com has a list of money matters to discuss before marriage.

Create a Joint Account in Addition To Keeping Separate Accounts

As much as you love your significant other, Clark says keeping separate finances, especially early in a committed relationship, is a good idea.

He recommends opening a joint account (Clark calls this a couple or house account) to pay for common bills such as the mortgage or rent and utilities.

You can either contribute the same amount to the joint account every month or determine each of your contributions based on income.

Don’t Have Secret Accounts

It may be tempting to open a secret credit card or bank account to avoid your significant other questioning your spending habits, but Clark strongly recommends against doing that.

Clark says secrecy leads to distrust, and that’s a bigger problem than financial disagreements. Don’t go behind your partner’s back to avoid an argument about money.

Final Thoughts

Clark emphasizes the need for transparency in his money tips for couples: Everything about a couple’s finances should be known by both parties. 

And if two people view finances differently, remember that it’s not something that will be fixed in a day. Ongoing conversations are extremely important to help avoid financial disagreements.

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To hear Clark’s full take on this topic, listen to this segment from his podcast:

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