Love & Money: A Thing or Two to Learn From Wealthy Couples

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The start of a new year and the aftermath of buying an expensive Valentine's Day gift can often spark up conversations at home about the outlook for spending... and splurging. Often, a great divide exists in a couple’s understanding of their budget, and limits, merely because they fail to make time, or simply, chose not to discuss it.

Those looking for some tips on how to improve their financial harmony this year, could learn a thing or two from wealthy American couples. The results of the latest PNC Wealth & Values Survey indicates that many millionaire couples rely on financial transparency and trust, but for some, most tensions stem from contribution imbalance which can lead to a sense of inequality in the relationship.

Are you a "Me" or "We" Couple?

Six in 10 wealthy couples surveyed say they fully disclosed their financial situations before they got married or started living with their partner and a majority of them agreed it was helpful to do so.  Of those couples, 71% reveal that they pool their money, which likely creates a sense of joint ownership.

The key here may be to communicate on the front-end. Are you willing to pool earnings and expenses or do you prefer to keep the status quo? Often tensions over financial responsibilities and goals can be eased by a simple discussion to reveal the comfort level of transparency as to whether you are willing to be a “me” or “we” couple. It may be time for you to do the same.

While only one in four wealthy couples say they argue over money, those who do are more likely to be unequal contributors to the household finances and are less likely to have disclosed their finances before marriage or living together.

Interestingly, a large majority of survey participants (77 percent) indicate they have never even thought about or considered a prenuptial agreement or domestic contract in their current relationship.

But it takes more than just Cupid’s Arrow to seal the deal.

While it’s unlikely to find a situation where both partners contribute equally with their financial earnings, what’s more important is getting to a place where both can contribute equally to the discussion and planning process of their financial health.

Among the 66 percent of millionaire couples where one partner has contributed more wealth than the other, 19 percent say that difference has triggered financial tensions.

Those who do argue about money are more likely to be unequal contributors to the household finances, younger and still working, and more likely to have attained the majority of their wealth through an inheritance, divorce or legal settlement.

If Transparency Works for the Wealthy, It Could Work For You Too 

If anything, the survey suggests one important lesson: open communication and full disclosure of a financial inventory can help create a better sense of ownership in your financial goals. And this may not be limited to the early stages of a new relationship. A hectic life filled with the needs of a growing family in most cases, impacts the financial planning dynamic, leaving little time to discuss or refresh strategies.

So take out the box of Valentine’s Day chocolate (or the one you bought after the holiday at half-price to be budget-friendly) and book a financial date with your partner.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

"ME" OR "WE": Discuss or revisit if you are a “me” or “we” couple. It will help create better awareness and expectations of the budgeting responsibility as well as the spending benefits.

2016 PLAN: Create or adjust your game plan for your budget. There are tons of digital tools to do the work for you, but the critical part is first agreeing on how best to nurture the growth of your nest egg.  For example, discuss whether there is enough going towards retirement accounts or review areas of wasted spending, unnecessary memberships, subscriptions, etc.

CHECK-UP: Most couples are proactive about booking their annual teeth cleaning and physicals, but how often to you “book” a check-up to assess your financial health? Talk to a financial advisor to help navigate the financial health of your relationship.

Nadine Givens is senior vice president and director of PNC Bank Wealth Management Group for Indianapolis.

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