Top 5 money habits of happy couples

What are the secrets of financially happy couples? The Ameriprise study on couples and money provides some interesting answers.

  • Most couples agree on money, but those who are not in tune financially tend to have issues communicating on financial matters.
  • While the majority of couples have different money management styles, two-thirds have developed financial harmony over time
  • 40% of couples who disagree about money say that an advisor helped them make decisions about financial concerns that may otherwise have caused tension in the relationship.
77% of couples across the U.S. report they are on the same page with finances. These results are from the Ameriprise study on couples and money, a survey commissioned by Ameriprise Financial.

Of all the issues that can spark conflict in a relationship, money has long been thought to be at the top of the list. Money troubles can trigger arguments, stir up resentment and even push partners toward breakups.

But, while couples might sometimes disagree about money, the happiest ones know how to work through their differences. According to the Ameriprise Financial study on couples and money, a remarkable 77% of American couples report they are on the same page with their finances.

How do these couples achieve financial harmony?

What’s their secret? Did their money styles mesh from day one? How do they handle the inevitable challenges — and what can less agreeable couples learn from them? These are some of the questions Ameriprise set out to answer.

Top 5 money habits of happy couples

Open communication is one hallmark of a healthy relationship. Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that among couples who are in synch about their finances, nearly seven out of 10 (68%) describe communication over finances with their spouses/partners as “perfect” or “very good.”

  1. They make money a priority. Half of those surveyed believe that money is an important factor in their relationship and only 15% say it’s not important.
  2. Most talk about and agree on financial goals and shared responsibilities. 68% rate their communication on financial matters as good or perfect, and 82% of couples have discussed retirement and have similar views on how to approach it.
  3. They set spending limits. Any purchases over $400 (on average) need to be discussed.
  4. The majority have joint banking accounts. And if one partner keeps money separate from the joint account, the other is typically aware of it.
  5. They share the responsibility for retirement planning and investment decisions. 92% agree on their target retirement savings goals.
“The study found that couples who are financially in tune discuss money, spending limits, and roles and responsibilities regularly,” says Marcy Keckler, CRPC®, CFP®, Vice President, Financial Advice Strategy at Ameriprise Financial. “They also tend to have joint accounts and are more likely to feel that they have enough saved for retirement.”

“One crucial takeaway is that communication really is critical in all areas of a relationship — including your finances,” she adds.

Opposites can complement each other

As anyone in a committed relationship will tell you, making the partnership work requires just that — plenty of work.  But the most satisfied and financially compatible couples have learned to adjust if one person is, for example, a spender and the other is a saver. How have they found that balance? Through patience, commitment and a willingness to grow and adapt.

  • 73% of individuals have money management styles that are different from their partner’s.
  • A remarkable 82% say they work to quickly resolve their differences and move on.
  • About two-thirds evolved into their financial responsibilities, and one-third deliberately discussed how they would split up their roles.
“Making true and lasting changes can be challenging — particularly when it comes to finances,” says Keckler. “But couples tell us it’s worth it. More than half of all respondents said that their relationship with their spouse or partner has made them more financially responsible.”

“Finances can trigger disagreements in relationships,” she adds. “However, the study shows that working together can pay off — 54% of respondents reported that the role of money in their relationships has improved over time.”

What financial decisions do couples argue about?

31% of couples clash over finances at least once a month.

Here’s another unavoidable fact about relationships: Even the most patient, loving and committed couples argue. And as the study uncovered, money is a common cause for those quarrels.

Approximately 31% of all couples — even the happiest ones — clash over their finances at least once a month. The most common points of disagreement:

  • Major purchases (34%)
  • Decisions about finance and children (24% of respondents with kids)
  • A partner’s spending habits (23%)
  • Important investment decisions (14%)

The value of an objective, third-party viewpoint

The study also found that turning to a neutral party such as a shared financial advisor can be a particularly effective way to deal with disagreements about money. “Couples who see the same advisor report that it has helped them improve both their communication and their understanding about financial matters,” says Keckler. “It’s also helped many of them defuse potential conflicts. Approximately 40% of couples who describe themselves as not ‘on the same page’ financially say that advisors have helped them negotiate money issues that might otherwise have caused tension.”

Strategies to help improve communication about money

66% of couples set a spending limit, with an agreement that purchases over a certain amount must be discussed.
  • Discuss financial issues prior to marriage or moving in together
  • Come to a mutual understanding of financial roles and responsibilities
  • Make investment decisions and retirement goals a priority in the relationship
  • Work with a financial professional on a tailored approach to manage your finances