Practical Tips for Managing Money as a Couple

I recently met with Lisa Berlin, MBA, Daily Money Manager ( and we came up with some recommendations:

  •  Make sure you are discussing money concerns, not underlying issues of control, security, or love.
  • For married couples, consider having a joint account for shared obligations with each partner having own separate account. The separate accounts can hold discretionary money to be spend on extras (one partner may spend it on eating out; while another will save it up for a special hobby)
  • Commit to a financial dialogue on a regular basis. Some of the topics could be agreeing on short and long term goals; prioritizing spending; deciding whether you need or desire an item and what will happen if you delay getting it; and determining whether your obligations are being met, and if not, what changes you as a couple need to make.
  • Many of the couples I see find it helpful to use my ‘Money Decision Making Chart.’

There are 5 choices:

  1. Decisions made by one partner without consulting the other (for example, food shopping, getting basic sets of clothes for the family, use of discretionary funds).
  2. Decisions made by the same partner after consulting with the other (getting advice on kind of car to buy, which school to go to, etc.)
  3. Joint decisions made together, such as, buying a home, a car, vacations, amount for savings, amount in the discretionary funds, etc.
  4. Decisions made by the other with consultation.
  5. Decisions made by the other partner without consultation.

When money issues come up, you as a couple can decide where it belongs on the chart.

Money Decision Making Chart

Click on link above to open a larger version of the chart.

Click on link above to open larger version of the chart.

Let me know what other tips you find helpful.

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.


Money Talk For Couples Part 2: The Conversation

A model, that brings both safety and respect for both partners in communicating about money, is the Couple’s Dialogue from Imago Relationship Therapy (see Blog entitled Couples’ Difficulties in Communication).

You are not solving problems about finances at this point. The purpose is for both of you to listen to each other without judgment or blame. The most important thing is having empathy for your partner (putting yourself in your partner’s place). Later on, once both are heard and understood, solutions can be proposed.

Some topics to talk about:

  1. When I think about money, what comes up for me is . . .
  2. My greatest concern about money is . . .
  3. The messages I received about money growing up (you can use your     multigenerational family tree from Part 1) are . . . How I think these have affected my view about money personally and in our relationship is . . .
  4. I mainly identify with the ‘money personality type’ (see Part 1) . . . How I think this affects you and our relationship is . . .
  5. What I like about myself in handling money is . . . What I would like to change is . . .
  6. What I admire in the way you, my partner, handles money is . . .
  7. One thing that bothers me about how you handle money is . . . What this says about me is . . . My greatest fear about this is . . .
  8. One thing that I think bothers you about how I handle money is . . . What I say to myself about your fears or concerns around this are . . .

Notice how important it is to stay as the ‘compassionate visitor’ as you give your partner the ‘gift’ of expressing her/himself fully, being listened to even if you disagree. Money is a very delicate, highly charged issue. Please do not think your partner does not ‘love’ you because it is hard to change. This is more about your partner than about you. You are learning about each other’s views and struggles around money.

In my next Blog, I will share with you some practical tips for handling money as a couple. Please let me know what other couple’s issues you would like me to write about.

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

Money Talk for Couples Part I: Influences from the Past and the Present

One of the hardest topics for many couples to talk about is money. When and how to bring this up; early on in the dating stage or perhaps when the relationship is more serious? Many couples married for a long time have a hard time discussing issues around money. Why is this so difficult to do?  Money has underlining implications for many of us defining prestige, power, security, and self-worth. Spending money can even serve as a way of self-soothing from stress (getting a ‘chemical high’ from buying).

What are the messages we learn from our society about money? One is you work hard and the more you earn is determined by a combination of your educational level,  risk-taking abilities, and effort. But we know this is not always true. Perhaps you inherited money or you’re in a valued field, such as certain sciences or math. You might have put a lucky beat on a fund and made a tremendous amount. This can affect decision-making around money. Some high earners believe they should have more say around purchasers because they make so much more than their partner. This can cause a lot of friction for the couple. Other couples look at the contributions both make to the relationship without the belief that the higher earner has more power.

Another message from our society is the marketing of material goods that we may think we need which we can do without. Especially with the availability of credit cards, many believe we’ve become a ‘nation of over spenders’ (of course this isn’t true for everyone). This could lead to a couple living beyond their means, incurring lots of debt.

What messages did you receive in childhood which have shaped your view of money? It can be helpful for couples to make a multigenerational money tree to show and discuss the different messages they have been exposed to. For example, one’s father could have been a spender avoiding any kind of budget; while the mother was so busy trying to make ends meet and even to save. This pattern may have been passed down from one generation to the next. The couple can then discuss how these patterns may be present in the relationship.

Does money bring happiness, security, prestige, and self-worth? We all need a certain amount of money to live, which is determined by many factors, such as, geographical location, medical complications, etc. Beyond that, having more money gives us more options. Money might bring ‘peace of mind,’ but rarely happiness or the security of being in loving relationships. If you equate money with self-worth, what will happen if you lose your job due to factors out of your control? Many of you may have lost your savings in the Recession of 2008. Rather than equating losing your job or money with self-worth, it can be determined by your accomplishments and valuable relationships that you have built over time.

It is important to become aware of your ‘money style’ and how this affects your relationship. Olivia Mellan in Money Harmony: Resolving Money Conflicts In Your Life and Relationships presents ‘money personality types.’ You can find out your type by taking her online quiz online at Are you mainly an ‘amasser,’ ‘avoider,’  ‘hoarder,’ money monk’ (who thinks money is dirty and can corrupt you), or a ‘spender?’  You may identify with several aspects of these traits and it can change over time. Many people get involved with partners who have opposite ‘types.’ For example, a ‘spender’ may hook up with a ‘hoarder.’

It is recommended that early on in a relationship, conversations about money need to be discussed. This dialogue needs to continue on a regular basis throughout the relationship. How to do this will be the topic of the next blog.

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.