Financial planning or couples therapy?

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ASIC’s new campaign with Relationship Australia encourages consumers to make a date with their partner to talk about their finances, and planners are in a good position to help make it happen.

A US study found that 55% of adults living with a long-term partner did not set aside time on a regular basis to discuss their financial issues. People find their discussions about money often end in arguments, which ultimately leads to avoidance and on-going difficulties, says relationship expert Lyn Fletcher.

“It’s helpful if couples can discuss money when they don’t feel pressured,” she says, encouraging couples to set a date much like a business meeting.

Certified Financial Planner Adrienne Rush realises the role of advisers in clarifying money issues between couples to ensure they are both on board with a financial plan.

“I have found this an excellent way of connecting with both partners,” she said. “There is often relief, shared financial responsibility, and we can increase financial literacy together.”

She said it was particularly important to get women on board, as they often shirk financial responsibility. “[Women] rely on their partner to sort out the complex financial stuff which not only leaves them in the dark about their own financial security and future but it can put pressure on one party in the carry the financial load.”

Rush says it is important to talk at a level everyone is comfortable with, using emotional intelligence. “Each person needs to feel at ease and become accountable for their part in the plan…it makes working together so much easier.”

MoneySmart’s suggested starting topics for couples are:

  • Relationship goals
    Do they want to get married, study, work overseas, buy a home or have a baby – these are all useful questions to ask to compare their goals
  • Their experiences with saving and spending
    Everyone has different experiences with money. Get them to discuss how they approach spending and saving
  • Who will be the designated bill payer?
    Who will handle the finances? Will one person look after household expenses and the other the mortgage?
  • Joint versus separate money
    When would you expect your partner to check with you before spending money? Is some money just for one person?