Being on the same page financially with your significant other is crucial to the success of your relationship. It’s easy to understand why: Money is a leading cause of stress in relationships and results in more than 21% of divorces in the U.S.
When your partner is bad with money, it can be challenging because you are often emotionally invested in his or her money issues, which can be detrimental to the relationship.
If you feel stuck and want to help your S.O. get better with money, here are five tips to help you take action.
Focus on triggers
If you feel your significant other is bad with money, start by trying to understand what triggers him or her. Does he spend too much money? If so, what is he spending money on and why?
Sa El, co-founder of Simply Insurance, says that both he and his partner had problems managing money at the beginning of their relationship.
“We decided that we needed to understand the things that triggered us to spend money at the wrong times or to buy things we actually didn’t need,” El says.
“If you don’t fix the destructive spending triggers first, it’s going to be very hard to manage your money.”
Lead by example
Sometimes actions can speak louder than words when it comes to getting your partner on board with your financial goals.
Diana Hall, a writer who blogs about side hustles on her site Side Jam Biz, has a long-term partner who’s hasn’t shown an interest in getting out of debt.
“My plan is to pay off what is currently in my name to show him it can be done,” Hall says.
“I also want him to witness how much better our lives can be once we are free and clear.”
Hall says that money has caused a lot of tension in her relationships and led to some heated discussions. This is why she is choosing to take action on her end first and not push too hard – in the hopes that her partner will come around and follow her lead.
Accept their money flaws and lead with transparent communication
We all have our flaws, and perhaps in your case this means your partner isn’t great with money. You may need to accept this.
Mike Pearson, founder of Credit Takeoff, says his wife is pretty bad with money.
“Bless her, but my wife doesn’t really know anything about budgeting, investing, saving for college for our two kids, saving for a down payment for a home we hope to buy in a few years, or even how much our income and expenses come out to each month,” says Pearson.
“However, that’s okay because I’m pretty good at this stuff, and we work well as a team thanks to regular and transparent communication.”
Pearson says he handles all the family’s finances but his wife knows exactly what’s going on. Each month, they sit down to review their net worth and their 529 balances for their kids. They also review how much they spent during the last month and how much they earned.
Pearson’s solution is interesting because he was able to accept his wife’s flaws when it came to managing money. Yet, while he takes on the bulk of the responsibility when it comes to money management, his wife is still aware of what’s going on and can do her part to support their financial goals.
Sit down and create a budget together
Depending on your situation, you may want to dig deeper and recognize why your partner is not good with money. Perhaps he never learned about money growing up. Maybe she thinks she’s good with money when she actually isn’t.
Take the opportunity to communicate and manage money as a team. While you’re at it, show your S.O. the benefits of budgeting, tracking your spending, and saving money. This way it won’t seem so overwhelming.
McKinzie Bean, founder of Mom Makes Cents, found that sitting down and creating a budget with her husband helped him get better at handling money.
“I put together a simple budget spreadsheet and the first Saturday of each month we would sit and fill out the spreadsheet together,” Bean says.
“Seeing what he thought he was spending vs. what he was actually spending was a game changer.”
Say something before it's too late
If you’re having money problems in your relationship, it’s important to speak up and talk to your partner about solutions sooner rather than later.
Robert Gale, who blogs at Real Money Robert, admits he made a lot of bad money decisions with his ex-wife and racked up a lot of debt as a result. When they divorced and she filed for bankruptcy, he had to file with her or risk taking on all the remaining debt.
“We filed for bankruptcy through the process of the divorce and I learned a valuable lesson about debt and money,” Gale says.
“My outlook has been forever changed as a result and now I refuse to incur debt and instead focus on saving money when I want to make purchases or go on trips.”
Along those lines, your relationship doesn’t have to come to an end just because your partner is bad at money.
“My breaking point was when I swiped our debit card and it got declined because he had spent all our money on gadgets,” Studdard says.
“Me telling him to stop spending recklessly or I’d leave actually helped clean up his act. He promised to do better and we spent the next few months going over our finances together and budgeting as a team, which helped us pay off debt together in three years.”
Be a supportive partner and focus on improvement
If your partner isn’t good with money, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. If he or she is willing to make some changes and meet you halfway, you stand a better chance of getting on the same financial page.
In addition, by following these five tips, you’ll get a good running start when it comes to helping your S.O. be better with money. Just remember to be transparent and communicate often. And, discuss your differences calmly, while working together to create an action plan. It may be a cliche, but sometimes teamwork really does make the dream work!