How to Stop Arguing About Money

Money can cause rifts in families, but you can work through it with understanding and patience.

Written by Elaine King CFP® / August 8, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Couples often fight over money even if they're compatible in every other way.
  • Be interested and ask questions to discover your partner's perspective on money.
  • Set a schedule to discuss financial matters that will affect your family.

Maybe you chose your high school sweetheart and play the same sports and love the same music, but do you have the same money personality? You very well may not even if you're perfectly compatible in every other way.

Here is a step-by-step process you can follow when your next money argument arises.

Step one

Take a deep breath. Count to 5.

Then ask a lot of questions–I know what you are thinking: "How can I ask questions when someone may be screaming or agitated?"

It is hard, but believe me it works. The goal here is to gather as much information as possible and understand this should not be taken personally. Focus on the challenge at stake and not the person is my best advice.

Here is an example. Maria called me because her husband, a successful businessman, had purposely been delaying putting money to her account to pay the monthly bills, causing her stress and anxiety while taking care of their four little kids. They argued every month. When I asked her husband separately why he was delaying the deposits, he said that Maria could not have money ahead of time because she would spend it all.

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The biggest mistake couples make when arguing is to assume without being curious about the “why.” Turns out, Maria was overspending in things that had gone up in price like the kids’ after-school activities, clothes for them and school supplies. The husband had no issue with that kind of spending, but he never knew because he never asked. Asking the right question in this case would have saved a lot of pain.

Never assume you have the full story of your partner’s money behavior.

Step two

Be curious about your partner’s attitude towards money.

When I asked Maria about her upbringing, she told me she was the youngest of three brothers and had an overprotective father. Every time she needed money as a little girl her dad would give her the exact amount and she was never encouraged to save, grow or protect her money—it was always available to her.

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Her husband, on the other hand, was an only child of very young parents and they had to sacrifice trips and extras for him to go to school. He was brought up being told that every cent counted. Clearly, both of them saw money differently. Unless you have a conversation about your partner’s attitude of money, you will not fully understand what drives their behavior.

Our money attitudes are mostly built during our early years unconsciously from our parents, our childhood friends and the environment we grew up in. In this step, I strongly recommend not judging without fully understanding. Just because someone grew up in a big house does not imply their attitude of money is abundant or vice versa. Each family has their money values. Learning about yours and your partner's should be a fun activity that will reap future rewards and help you set financial goals that stick.

Step three

Commit to a couple’s money hour weekly.

Making money talks part of your weekly routine will lower the intensity next time there is an argument about money. Use the time to plan for your financial goals, and match these with the activities or actions you decide to make as a couple.

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For example, Joanna and her husband chose to have the first Monday of the month to talk about money challenges. This month the topic was inheritance, and they had a big dilemma. By now Joanna knew her husband had a high-risk tolerance, and he knew she had a low risk tolerance. Turns out, he wanted to put all the inheritance to the business, and she wanted to pay down all the debt.

They called me and asked me for my advice, and it was an easy conversation. A joint decision was made in minutes because there had been prep work for months about this topic.

In your meetings, have a checklist that includes cash flow, assets, liabilities and goals. Check in with each other on celebrations and challenges. Work together knowing your limitations.

About the Author

Elaine King

Elaine King CFP®

Elaine has served as the Family’s Financial Planner for over 1,200 families and 100 multigenerational family enterprises crafting actionable family financial plans.

Full bio

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