Most people are uncomfortable discussing money, even in their most intimate relationships, according to a new survey from the National Financial Educators Council (NFEC).
The NFEC Money and Relationships Survey found that just over 51% of respondents said they felt uneasy discussing money with anyone — including friends, siblings, parents and even romantic partners.
Love and money
As part of its Love & Money Month initiative, the NFEC asked 1,200 people to share who they feel comfortable talking with about personal finances. While romantic partners were the top choice in both 2021 and 2022, the overall results showed that most weren’t comfortable discussing money in any of their personal relationships.
When asked whom they felt comfortable discussing finances with, respondents named:
- Romantic partner (21.3%)
- Parents or guardians (11%)
- Siblings or extended family (9.7%)
- Friends or co-workers (6.8%)
- None of the above (51.2%)
These results echo findings from a recent survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), which showed similar discomfort among couples when addressing financial issues.
In that survey, 61% said they had combined finances with a current or former partner, and more than 40% in that group admitted to committing acts of financial infidelity, such as lying or hiding financial activities. The most common of such acts included hiding cash (19%) and hiding a minor purchase (18%), in many cases because they felt embarrassed, fearful or concerned their partner would disapprove.
How to open up the conversation
Money isn't an easy topic for discussion, no matter how intimate the relationship. According to the NFEC, concerns over money can lead to division within a relationship — and may even result in its end. However, opening up a conversation can be a part of the solution.
Both the NFEC and the NEFE recommend creating intentional transparency around money in romantic relationships. Regular conversations between partners can include setting goals and discussing guidelines for how you'll spend, as well as whether you should communicate certain purchases to each other.
The NFEC also offers guides for approaching financial milestones over the course of a romantic relationship. In its publication 65 Money Conversations Every Couple Should Have, couples can find a series of questions to help them get to know each other at different stages of the relationship.
Examples of questions you can use to break the ice include…
- "Do you see yourself as more of a natural spender, or a saver?"
- "Do you tend to value ‘having things’ or experiences more?"
- "Did you grow up rich, middle-class or poor? How did your background make you feel?"
- "How do you feel about combining finances?"
- "Does either of you have any money saved up? If so, what do you plan to do with it?"
- "What are our long-term financial priorities?"
Unfortunately, research shows that couples can often disagree about money, in particular when it comes to how to spend it. But by asking these questions and putting things out in the open, partners can try to come to an arrangement on how to manage their finances.
Couples and Money
Methodology: The NFEC's online survey of 1,200 people was conducted between Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, 2022.