40% of couples don’t know how much their partner makes — Here’s why that’s bad
Arianna O'Dell is the founder of Airlink Design, a digital agency helping clients create beautiful graphic design, collateral, and websites. Her writing work has appeared in Inc. and Ladders News.
At a Glance
For many, this may seem perfectly understandable, but there are some serious repercussions from being unaware of how much your partner makes, and it has nothing to do with manners. Not knowing what your partner makes can have significant consequences on financial planning, paying down debt, and your relationship’s overall health, financial and otherwise.
Nobody likes to talk about money. Many people find it embarrassing or shameful, even uncouth or ill-mannered, to talk about their finances, how much they make or how little. The concern of being judged is palpable. So much so, that a recent survey showed about 40% of people in serious, long-term relationships couldn’t even ballpark their partners’ salaries.
Why do you Need to Know Your Partner’s Income?
On a basic level, if you want to put a label on it, a relationship is a partnership. We all know this cliche. And in any partnership, transparency is vital. They say relationships are built on trust, and one way to build that trust is transparency. This isn’t to say that you should forgo daily niceties in the name of brutal honesty but building a financial future with someone requires trust and knowing what you have to build that future with, whether that’s a healthy chunk of savings or a load of student loan debt.
The first step in any financial plan, any sort of planning at all, is evaluation. You need to know what you’re working with. How can you expect to create a financial plan without knowing what you have in terms of debt, savings, and expenses? Talking to your partner about your income, your debt, your savings, and your credit score allows the two of you to create a solid financial plan with all the information.
Planning on getting a new car? Maybe you want a bigger place, or to buy your first home, maybe you want to have kids, or you’re trying to figure out a retirement plan, or perhaps you want to go back to school? Any of these will incur significant financial costs that will affect you both. Starting from an informed, well-thought-out position will increase your chances of success and can dramatically reduce stress on you and your relationship.
Why Talking About your Finances with Your Partner is a Good Thing
Twenty percent of couples say that money issues are the leading cause of strain on their relationship, while 84% of couples who said that money is not an issue in their relationship claimed to communicate about their finances regularly. Communication is a good foundation for any relationship, and talking about money is no exception. Organizing finances is stressful, and it’s doubly stressful if you’re hiding things, likewise, it’s stressful being in the dark, always uncertain about your household’s finances.
Being able to speak to your partner about money allows you to share that burden and help each other (what a novel idea in a partnership!) carry the responsibility. It can also allow for vulnerability between you and your partner, which helps build strength and trust.
How do you Talk to your Partner about Income?
There’s no easy way for two people to talk about things that make them uncomfortable, and it takes two willing participants. Start small. Set a regular time for the two of you to talk about your finances, whether that’s once a month or once every other month. You can schedule it around something fun or enjoyable, if that makes it easier for you, game night, movie night, ice cream, pizza, whatever helps you both lower your guard and feel comfortable. While an expensive dinner out may not be the vibe when discussing finances, takeaway burgers in your PJs might. Do what works for you as a couple.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often, our biggest fears come when we don’t know what we’re doing, that can be exacerbated in financial situations. Calling on the help of an expert can help alleviate fears and uncertainties, if either you or your partner are struggling to make headway with the conversation.
Talking about money is hard. It makes us self-conscious and awkward. But simply avoiding financial discussions because of that isn’t the answer. Talking about money with your partner can help alleviate financial stress, and it allows you to form a carefully considered financial plan for your future together.