Discussing finances is more taboo than sex these days – but it’s time for couples to have ‘the talk’

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Discussing finances is more taboo than sex these days – but it’s time for couples to have ‘the talk’

The next time your partner says, “Penny for your thoughts,” don’t hold back – at least when those thoughts revolve around pennies.

Two years into the pandemic, many couples are feeling the crunch of financial stress – but a study from Personal Capital, an online financial adviser and wealth management company, shows a number of them are failing to deal with it together.

That’s especially true among younger people. Collectively, close to two in three millennials and Gen Zers reported they were dealing with increased financial stress in their relationships thanks to COVID. And yet a significant 44% of US millennials also said that they avoid talking about money with their partner.

Unfortunately, the only way around this issue is through it, says Andrew Sofin, a psychotherapist specializing in couples and families in Montreal, Canada.

“For any successful relationship – even friendships – there has to be an element of transparency,” says Sofin. “If this is somebody who you’re saying [about]’We love each other, we want to be together,’ then you have to trust that you can have those difficult conversations. “

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Taking back control together

That’s not to underestimate how challenging these conversations may be. For example, over half of Americans fear inflation could have a big negative impact on their ability to reach long-term financial goals such as buying a house or being able to retire comfortably, according to a May Ipsos poll called the Country Financial Security Index Report.

Six in 10 Americans say they are very concerned about inflation – up from 48% in Q4 of 2021.

While couples have no control over factors like COVID or economic policy, there are some things they can do together to reduce the stress of those external factors. Krista Aliga, the virtual program manager at Personal Capital and a certified financial planner, says just having a conversation is a great first step.

“The more you’re open to having these conversations, especially in a non-judgmental way … (the more you can) help address exactly what the stress is and how (you) can move forward with it,” says Aliga.

The money taboo

As the Personal Capital survey shows, some are finding themselves more impacted by the stress than others.

“With the layoffs that we saw right away, and some job instability in certain industries, that can certainly be a huge stressor for someone who’s just starting out,” says Aliga.

As with many relationship issues, it comes down to communication, which the survey also revealed is a problem for younger couples.

“There’s still this taboo around dealing with money – more so now than sex,” says Sofin.

Being evasive or avoidant when it comes to money starts early in relationships, when people put their best foot forward, spending more cash than they should to impress the object of their affection.

“There’s so much posturing around money,” says Sofin. “And it’s so tied into seeking a mate… it’s all about, ‘How much money do you make? Can you afford to have a family? ‘”

Problems begin to appear when you get close enough to your partner for the facade to drop, but honest communication doesn’t follow. According to TD Bank’s Love and Money Survey published in February, 32% of Americans are keeping a financial secret from their partner, despite the fact 75% report being happy in their relationship.

But what happens if a partner’s secret is revealed? According to Personal Capital, 58% of Americans would end a relationship if their partner was being dishonest about money.

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These conversations don’t have to be complicated

As a couples therapist, sex and money are the two biggest issues Sofin deals with. But in his sessions by him, financial issues are much harder to resolve.

“It’s amazing… sex, I can deal with in the hour,” says Sofin. “Money and how you’re trying to deal with that? It’s too complicated. And there’s so many layers to it. “

But knowing the weight of the topic doesn’t mean the conversations you have with your partner about money have to be heavy. In fact, Aliga recommends doing your best to keep it light.

“You don’t have to sit down with an Excel spreadsheet by any means… that would be, you know, a very intimidating way to start it,” she says.

Instead, she suggests going on a coffee date or maybe a walk.

“Keep it more conversational – you want your partner’s input just as much as you want to share yours.”

Creating a comfortable setting will help break down those barriers and help make your partner feel they can be transparent and honest about their feelings, Aliga says.

And in the simple act of sharing the stress you’re feeling, she adds, you may suddenly find something to help you carry that stress.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

Get the latest personal finance news sent straight to your inbox with the MoneyWise newsletter.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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