Many British couples are burying their heads in the sand over their financial situations. One in seven (14 per cent) couples over the age of 40 – or around 4.22 million people – admit they have never discussed their finances, according to research from Prudential.
Fears about having awkward conversations drives this behaviour, with 15 per cent of those surveyed admitting they feel uncomfortable talking to their partners about financial planning.
A concern that these conversations will boil over into arguments is another reason that couples avoid talking about their finances – money is the third most likely subject to cause arguments among couples, with nearly one in four (23 per cent) claiming that they fight over finances, ahead of work (10 per cent), and politics and religion (5 per cent). Only household chores (27 per cent) and disputes about family (30 per cent) are more likely to cause disagreements.
Even for the majority of couples who do discuss their retirement plans, long-term issues are likely to be side-lined, as short-term everyday expenses take priority. Daily living costs and household bills are regularly discussed by the majority of couples (60 per cent and 52 per cent respectively), and one in three couples (34 per cent) speak about the costs of home improvements, large purchases and luxuries.
However, discussions about long-term planning are far less prevalent, with only 16 per cent of couples claiming to regularly talk about retirement income and pension planning. Only three per cent of couples claim they have had conversations about inheritance planning and tax.
Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement expert at Prudential said:
Money can be a tough topic to discuss at the best of times. Many couples prefer to steer clear of conversations about finances, and especially discussions about longer-term issues like retirement which might feel light-years away.
When was the last time you spoke to your partner about money? Unfortunately, sex and money are the subjects least spoken about in relationships. Left un-discussed, the issue of money can lead to resentment, shame and guilt all seething under the surface.
As a female breadwinner, in an effort not to emasculate or disempower you may have chosen to avoid money conversations with your partner, leaving you with the full weight of responsibility. On the other hand you might have thought it unnecessary to talk and behave as you like because it’s your cash, assuming that your partner’s silence means that it is OK.
Whatever the dynamic, conversations about money need to happen so you and your family can live a much richer life. In my book Rocking Your Role: The how to guide to success for female breadwinners I provide a framework for that conversation. Here are a few tips from female breadwinners I have met.
Identify attitudes – defining attitudes towards money is a good way to get the conversation started. Are you the same or different from your partner? If you don’t share the same values talking will help draw out some of the tensions. If you are too similar it might be better to discuss what you can both do differently to make the most out of money.
Make it practical – put all emotions aside and make money about practicality rather than power. You are in a great position to use your voice to break down taboos and decide what money means to your family.
Work as a unit – make choices about how you use and manage money together- a family unit can’t have people moving in different directions.
Join up accounts? – a joint account is one option that doesn’t work for everyone, it can make household and family spending a joint decision rather than a point of contention. Money can move freely and it doesn’t have to be divided up so obviously. You can always put money aside in a separate account as well.
Money conversations can help you make the right decisions about who manages it, what purchases and investments are made and how to build a future for your family. What happens as a result might surprise you! One woman I spoke to felt that women needed to earn at least equal to their partners to have an equal say in the relationship!
Talking about money is the only way to destroy the power it holds over us. It can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and stressful for everyone involved but having it out in the open is better than letting resentments fester on both sides.
Be the brave and courageous lioness I know that you are and start the conversation. Let me know how you get on!
I am Jenny Garrett, Executive Coach, founder of Reflexion Associates, a leadership and coaching consultancy and author or Rocking Your Role – I help professional working women move from struggling and juggling to rocking their many roles in life.