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4 Money Matters Couples Don't Talk About -- but Should

By Maurie Backman – Dec 12, 2018 at 8:21AM

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Are you keeping your partner in the dark?

It's no secret that money is a major source of contention in many relationships, so much so that it's currently a leading cause of divorce. But while many U.S. adults might turn to their partners to help pay the bills or provide a dose of much-needed financial security, they're alarmingly silent when it comes to money-related specifics. According to a new Merrill Edge report, here are four issues Americans are loath to discuss with their romantic partners -- and why that's a mistake.

1. Debt

A disturbing 60% of U.S. adults won't talk about debt with their partners. But if you don't have that discussion, you're apt to encounter difficulties making financial decisions together. Imagine you and your partner live in a rental and want to buy a home. If you have $20,000 in credit card debt, that might disqualify you from getting a mortgage jointly. And that, in turn, could damage your relationship.

Couple sitting across from each other at a table

Image source: Getty Images.

That's why it's crucial to be open about your debt, especially if it's at a level where it might be dragging down your credit score. Looping your partner in might help you devise a plan for getting out of that hole. For example, your partner might agree to cover the rent for a number of months so that you can take the money you otherwise would've contributed and use it to chip away at your balance.

2. Salary

A good 57% of Americans won't discuss their salaries with their partners. If you've been keeping that number a secret, you're doing yourself a disservice. Knowing how much money you and your partner have to work with collectively can help you make better joint financial decisions, whether they involve moving, buying a car, or even taking a vacation. And if you're worried that your partner will get jealous or act differently after learning that you make a bundle, remember that as long as you don't flaunt it, having that extra income could work out well for both of you.

3. Investments

Investing money is a good way to grow wealth that can help you meet different financial objectives. Yet 55% of couples don't like to talk about the ways they invest. By opening up on that front, however, you and your partner might learn from each other and adopt strategies to improve your personal portfolios. If you're hesitant to share the value of your investments, you can, at the very least, review the way your assets are allocated with your partner and ask him or her to do the same.

4. Spending habits

The way you and your partner approach spending money will probably play a big role in your relationship. If you're among the 51% of Americans who don't talk about their spending habits, now's the time to sit down with your partner for a serious discussion.

Imagine you're a spender by nature and your partner is a saver. Those attitudes might cause you to clash at different points in your relationship -- especially if you start combining finances and working with shared bank accounts. Rather than take that risk, get on the same page with your partner about how much you should be spending on a regular basis and how much you should be socking away. Better yet, create a budget together so that you're equally aware of where your money is going.

Maintaining a closed-door policy on all things financial is bound to hurt your relationship sooner or later. If you've been keeping your partner in the dark about your debt, salary, investments, or spending habits, schedule some time to discuss those matters in an open, pressure-free setting, and encourage your partner to follow suit. In doing so, you'll be taking steps to avoid conflict, all the while allowing yourselves to support each other in achieving the financial goals you find most important.

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