Really Personal Finance: Couples and Money

Retirement Calculators Fail to Achieve a Passing Grade
May 2, 2016
My interview on NPR radio about what consumers need to know about financial advisors
June 3, 2016

Dear Pam,

Q. I married a spender. Every month she’s spending more than we have. Now we can’t even think about investing for the future. For better or for worse, I’m stuck.

— Andy, Englewood, NJ

A. Money issues always top of the list of causes that break up relationships. Opposites definitely attract, and one spouse’s idea of living is the other’s idea of lavishing. A lifelong partnership requires trust and respect. That means you each need to recognize you bring different styles of managing money to the marriage, and both will need to bend to prevent money. Here are some tips to help immediately stabilize your situation:

◦ Recognize money is the necessary tool that can power your lifestyle now, and in the future.
◦ Write down your goals separately. Then together share and combine the vision. It’s important that you do this in writing.
◦ Talk through the strategies that will allow you to enjoy those goals.
◦ Acknowledge some degree of independence is healthy. Set up separate bank or brokerage accounts so you have: your’s, mine and our’s accounts. Agree to funding an emergency savings cushion and define ‘emergencies’.
◦ You’re a team now. If your spouse is overusing credit cards, you’ll need to stick to using a debit card and agree to restrict the amount of available credit.
◦ Stay focused on investing for the future. Maybe it’s for a child, or to save for a solid retirement. This way, you keep your eyes on the prize instead of holding grudges over past mistakes.

It’s not easy managing and investing your own money, and it’s twice as challenging when you’re trying to blend two completely different styles. I recommend meeting with a qualified, fee-based financial planner who can help you develop the habit of not making each other ‘wrong’ and instead establishing and then supporting the good habits. To find the best-fit advisor, head to

Meet Debbie and Bill, a Colorado couple who proves that less is more.


  1. Freddy says:

    Sounds like it would be unromantic, but it’s always good to ask their credit score before you get in too deep 😀

  2. Lou says:

    Good, solid advice. Seems like we need a referee these days

  3. L.K> says:

    Similar situation and talking hasn’t helped the situation. He makes me pay all the household bills, keeps his money separate, and gets mad when he wants an expensive steak dinner and I don’t have the money to pay for it.

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