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News Release

Love & Money: Making Sure Your Valentine Is a Good Financial Match

February 07, 2011

CFP Board Consumer Advocate Shares Financial Planning Tips to Keep Relationships Strong

Washington, DC, February 8, 2011 – As Valentine’s Day approaches, couples rush to find the right ways to say “I love you.” What they might not realize is it takes financial compatibility to sustain a healthy, long-term romantic relationship. In fact, money is the number one cause of relationship trouble in the United States.1 Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP® has some timely advice on how to strengthen a relationship and stop trouble before it starts – at least when it comes to money.

“Finances may not be the most romantic thing to discuss, but ignoring them can create big problems later in the relationship,” Blayney said. “Partners today are more financially separate, having their own incomes, assets and debts. Full financial disclosure is imperative, considering that many individuals carry a heavy bag of financial behaviors and obligations into their relationships.”

Here are some ideas that can make mixing love and money less of a tricky proposition:

  • Explain What Money Means: Childhood perceptions of what money meant and how it was managed in families can shape the way adults deal with their finances. Sharing those early money perceptions with a partner can clarify what’s important – and what’s not – and avoid misunderstandings later in a relationship.
  • Sync Money Goals with Life Goals: Sitting down and talking about each individual’s vision of the future can help bridge the gap between partners’ financial realities and life goals. If one wants a mansion in the nicest part of town while the other wants to send the kids to private school, priorities may need to be re-aligned to meet these different objectives. Each goal may require different planning and sacrifice that both partners buy into. It’s important to take the time to align these goals early.
  • Define “My” Money and “Our” Money: As counterintuitive as it may seem, it’s important to discuss the need for some financial separateness in a relationship. Together, a couple should decide what assets will remain his or hers alone – without having to account to the other person – and what assets will be combined. Letting a spender have some "mad money" and a saver have a separate nest egg can prevent later acts of “financial infidelity” where partners start keeping accounts secret from one another.
  • Plan for the Unexpected: Partners should create a financial contingency plan that lays out how each will work together should financial crises like a job loss or medical emergency arise. The best time to plan for the rough spots is while the road is still smooth.

“It all comes down to communication: upfront, frequent and starting as soon as the love bug bites,” Blayney said. “There’s nothing like some joint financial planning to show your Valentine how much you really care.”

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1 Papp, Lauren, Mark Cummings and Marcie Goeke-Morey, "For Richer, for Poorer: Money as a Topic of Marital Con?ict in the Home." Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies 58 (February 2009): 91–103