How to stop money from ruining your relationship

Can a spender and a saver live happily ever after? Experts say communication is key

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For 15 years as a financial coach, Lesley-Anne Scorgie kept seeing the same problem with her clients over and over again.


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“Couples who don’t communicate are one of the biggest issues I see,” says Scorgie.

As the founder of MeVest, a financial education company in Toronto, Scorgie decided to dig deeper into the matter. From this research was born a book, The Modern Couple’s Guide to Money , designed to help couples navigate this sensitive topic.

Scorgie found that less than seven percent of couples said they had a financial plan. And without a plan in place, couples struggled to be on the same page and ended up in conflict over money.

Planning is especially important when financial opposites attract and form relationships. A saver and a spender can have happy lives together, but only if they face their different approaches to money.


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Communicate – and manage your luggage

In her research, Scorgie found that couples who talk about money are much more likely to stick together. But very few actually have these conversations. A poll conducted by FP Canada in 2020 found that nearly one in four Canadians said they were uncomfortable talking about money.

This does not surprise Andrew Sofin, a psychotherapist specializing in couples and families in Montreal. The pandemic hasn’t helped either, with people often stuck at home for long periods of time.

“Especially if they live in a small one or two bedroom… it has an impact on people’s mental health. So obviously I can also imagine a major impact on your relationship, ”says Sofin.


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The three biggest issues he sees time and time again in his practice – communication, money and sex – were only magnified by the side effects of COVID.

Everyone enters into a relationship with their own baggage. But a lot of people don’t realize that the way they spend (or save) money reflects both their past experiences and what they enjoy now – and how that can impact their partner.

“The reality is you are learning your concepts around your original family’s money and finances,” he says. “Whether you grew up in extreme wealth or extreme poverty, this is going to rock you; that’s gonna make you who you are.

Scorgie adds that “whatever matters to you [reflects] in your bank account somehow because you’re spending money on things you care about.


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When to start talking about money

Conflict can arise when the things that individuals value are not aligned with their partner’s priorities.

Sofin says these problems usually start to appear when couples move in together, get engaged or get married and merge their finances. But the issues really come to the fore when couples start having children, which can bring additional financial stress to a relationship. Most of her clients are parents of children under the age of five.

To avoid ending up on Sofin’s couch one day, it’s important to start talking about finances early in a relationship. Obviously, you don’t want to show up on a first date with a spreadsheet to start building your financial plan together, but Scorgie says starting testing the waters on three or four dates is reasonable.


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This is to determine if you are financially compatible. And How? ‘Or’ What you have those conversations that matter.

“The best way to do it will always be, ‘This is how I grew up… this is how we treat expenses or credit cards; that’s what’s normal for me, ” says Sofin. “Because then it’s not a personal attack. You have to be open to talking about it. “

Can spenders and savers happily coexist?

As with other relationship issues, having different views about money doesn’t have to be a breakup. In fact, many people will benefit from having someone in their life who challenges their thinking and encourages them to try different approaches.

“I always kind of phrase it like, ‘Well you can be right and live on your own,’” says Sofin. “Or you can park your ego at the door and be open to compromise and discuss things and maybe change your views and have a great relationship.”


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These conflicts over money are often rooted in fundamental experiences and even sometimes trauma. Many people will find that there are things they need to sort out personally before they can resolve financial issues with their partner.

“It’s a problem that can be solved, but couples don’t know where to start,” says Scefeuille. Ultimately, she says, the two people in a relationship may need to work on themselves first.

Sofin and Scorgie agree that both parties should be open to a meeting in the middle. A spender and a saver can happily coexist if they communicate respectfully, plan together, and stick to their shared priorities.

If that’s not possible, Scorgie has a tricky piece of advice: this might not be the right relationship for you.

“It’s a really good idea to walk away from something that you are not sure about or that you are not sure about for financial reasons,” says Scefeuille. “Far too many people don’t care. But that’s a legitimate reason, okay.

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



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