January NFCC® Survey Reveals Top Financial Relationship Stressors

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Dishonesty and Disagreements Related to Money Are Common

National Foundation for Credit Counseling

Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner. Left unaddressed, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples.

Nearly half of all participants (47%) in the January online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) responded that disagreements about money are a major point of stress in their relationships.

Disputes about money management can begin as early as the first date, but they become lethal to relationships the longer they go unaddressed. As the years pass, what could have started as a constructive conversation about finance becomes a heated battle over who is right. Observations become accusations, and trust becomes suspicion. Growing levels of mistrust can lead to financial infidelity, which registered on the survey as the primary stress point for 25% of the respondents.

The NFCC recommends that couples press the pause button before things spiral out of control and have a constructive conversation about money. “Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner. Left unattended, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples. Understanding those differences means having honest discussions early in a relationship so the rules are mutually accepted and the financial goals are clear. No matter the differences or challenges, the best approach is to start communicating early,” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC.

The NFCC recommends the following guidelines for couples:

  • Be honest with yourself and each other when it comes to financial matters. As financial challenges appear, work together to address them directly instead of ignoring problems and wishing they will resolve themselves.
  • Establish money rules for the relationship and hold each other accountable. Discuss what will be jointly managed and set rules for making independent spending decisions.
  • Don’t conceal debt or sources of income from each other. Financial infidelity should be taken as seriously as any other form of cheating. Adhere to a policy of financial transparency to strengthen trust in the relationship.
  • Set a time and place where financial matters can be discussed on a regular basis, free of distractions.
  • Keep the tone of the conversation casual, and remain open to what each other has to say.
  • If a disagreement should go unresolved during a conversation, take a moment to find acceptable ways to compromise or consider revisiting the issue after a short time-out.
  • If a financial mistake is made, couples should work together to find solutions without assigning blame. Be willing to accept a fair share of the responsibility for the problem and the solution.
  • When tracking joint financial goals, understand that changing circumstances require a degree of flexibility from both partners in a relationship.
  • Understand that a single financial setback impacting one person ultimately affects the entire relationship, no matter how large or small the issue.

Often, money issues may reveal deeper problems in the relationship that require outside intervention. Sometimes, it helps to seek advice from a relationship counselor if matters cannot be resolved through normal communication. The same is true for the financial side of the equation. Seeking advice from an NFCC financial counselor can help address challenges and restore financial health, making it easier to focus on other aspects of the relationship.

The actual poll question and results are as follows:

Which of the following would be likely to cause you the most stress in a relationship?
1.    Frequent disagreements about financial matters 47%
2.    A partner who is too frugal 2%
3.    A partner who overspends 14%
4.    A partner who is secretive or dishonest about their finances 25%
5.    None of the above 11%

Note: The NFCC’s January Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC website (http://www.NFCC.org) from January 1-31, 2015, and was answered by 1126 individuals.

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The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC Member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit http://www.nfcc.org.

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