Money & relationships: How to improve your spouse's money habits

Among the worst irritants in married life is financial incompatibility. How often have you fought over your spouse’s impulse purchases or extravagant shopping? How frequently do you rant about your husband’s lack of communication about financial transactions? Are you constantly in a tiff over your wife’s risk-averse investment choices? When these personal financial choices begin to have an impact on your goals or the monthly budget, it leads to spats that can widen enough to cause a split. Before you reach the point where it’s impossible to turn back, try to find a solution so that it not only secures your financial future, but also makes your relationship more amicable. Here’s how:

1. Identify all irritants & consequences

In case of financial conflicts, the first step is to identify all the friction points. Instead of extrapolating your irritation over one money habit to generalisations and character assassination, it is better to sit down and list all the money-related issues you have with your spouse. More importantly, list the adverse impact that these irritants can have on your finances, be it in the short term or long term. For instance, if your spouse insists on investing only in risky avenues and your financial goal is very close, pen down the consequence of not having enough money for that goal. Similarly, if your partner does not tell you anything about the investments he is making, note down what will happen if he were to pass away suddenly.

2. Talk, talk, talk

Once both of you have your lists in place, you will need to sit down and talk about the conflict points. Each of the partners can take turns explaining what irrirates one about the other’s financial habit or trait, and how it can impact your finances, or how your children can suffer because of insufficient funds. If both agree to compromise, it will be important to give each other time to change because habits cannot be altered overnight. If, however, one of the partners is not willing to have a conversation, try to seek the help of a financial planner and a behavioural counsellor or therapist.

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3. Automa:ted checks in place

Once you have come to an arrangement wherein, say, the spouse will discuss a purchase before spending or making an investment, you can help each other by putting automated checks in place. These will help the partner transition to the desired financial behaviour or habit more easily. The checks can include working on a strict budget with written records and monthly analysis of income and outgo; automating investments through ECS mandate to banks, so that the money is invested as soon as the salary comes in; or setting financial goals so that both know how much money needs to be saved each month to amass the desired amount for each goal. It is important to communicate frequently to know whether you are on track.

4. Is the issue money-related or more deep-rooted?

While discussing the financial issues, it is important to understand whether the problem is more deep-seated than a habit. For instance, if your partner had an impoverished childhood or his parents suffered massive losses in the market, he is likely to be an extravagant spender or risk-averse when it comes to investments. For deeper psychological issues, it is better to contact a therapist before you focus on a financial plan or future trajectory.

If you have a wealth whine, write to us…

All of us have been in a financial dilemma when it comes to relationships. How do you say no to a friend who wants you to invest in his new business venture? Should you take a loan from your married brother? Are you concerned about your wife’s impulse buying? If you have any such concerns that are hard to resolve, write in to us at with ‘Wealth Whines’ as the subject.

The advice in this column is not from a licensed healthcare professional and should not be construed as psychological counselling, therapy or medical advice. ET Wealth and the writer will not be responsible for the outcome of the suggestions made in the column.)



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