Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Couples and Money

How to gauge financial compatibility in your relationship.

Key points

  • Financial challenges are one of the top issues couples address in couples therapy and why they get divorced.
  • When you marry somebody, their debt and credit score can have a major impact on your life.
  • About two in five Americans (43%) have committed a financial deception in a current/past relationship.
Mikhail Nilov/Pexels/Used with permission
Source: Mikhail Nilov/Pexels/Used with permission

What is financial compatibility?

Financial compatibility occurs when two people share financial values and goals and can communicate and collaborate well with one another to manage their money successfully. In romantic relationships when two people are likely spending time and money together, there needs to be agreement on who is paying for what. Discussions about finances become especially critical when couples move in together and share such joint expenses as rent and utilities, which can impact credit scores.

Financial compatibility is extremely important in marriage, because financial conflict is one of the top issues couples bring to couples therapy. It's also one of the top reasons couples divorce. Marriage is a legal agreement; unless you have a prenup, the debt and assets usually become a shared responsibility. When you marry somebody, their debt and credit score can have a major impact on your life.

Four Signs You and Your Partner Are Financially Compatible

  1. You share some of the same financial values. For example, you both might find it extremely important to get out of debt, have a proper savings account, and establish good credit.
  2. You both honestly acknowledge your strengths and deficits when it comes to finances. Your areas of financial strength and deficit can complement one another. For example, one of you might excel at organizing finances and paying bills, while the other might be very smart with saving and investing.
  3. There is mutual trust and respect, honest communication, and collaboration. Trust means placing faith in another's intentions, abilities, and reliability— something achieved only with honesty and transparency; for example if you say you will do something, you make sure it happens! Building and sustaining healthy relationships requires dedication and effort from both partners involved.
  4. There is honesty and transparency around finances. Open communication helps couples plan for their future together. By having an awareness of each other's financial status, spouses can make informed decisions regarding investments or savings options to pursue together in the future. Spouses can set joint financial goals with plans in place to achieve them.

Four Signs Your Partner Is Not Financially Compatible

  1. You have very different financial values. Perhaps one of you wants to live a caviar lifestyle and will work extremely hard to achieve that. The other might enjoy living a simpler lifestyle so more time is spent in leisure together.
  2. You are both a disaster with money. When this occurs, it is extra important to seek outside counsel and expert help; otherwise your financial situation could put extreme stress on the relationship.
  3. Financial imbalance is causing power and control issues in the relationship. Sometimes one partner might become financially abusive by restricting the other person’s access to money.
  4. There is financial infidelity in the relationship (secret assets or secret debts). According to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education, among those who have ever combined finances in a current/past relationship, about two in five Americans (43%) have committed a financial deception in a current/past relationship. In addition, a third (39%) hid a purchase/bank account/statement/bill/cash from a partner/spouse. And about one in five (21%) lied about finances/debt/money earned to a partner/spouse.

Still Not Sure Whether You Are Financially Compatible?

To discover whether you truly are financially compatible with your partner, you can begin to talk about finances with your partner by asking each other the following questions. You might learn things you never knew about your partner and discover reasons why or why you are not financially compatible.

  • What was money like for you when you were growing up? How has that impacted you today?
  • How did you handle money issues in your previous relationships? How did that work out?
  • What are your financial goals in life? Where do you want to live? Would you like to travel? Is giving to charity important to you? If we have kids together, what would you like to provide for them?
  • What are your values around money? Is money important to you? What kind of lifestyle do you want to live? Do you care a lot about having the finer things in life?
  • Are you more of a saver or spender or a balance of the two?
  • What software or systems do you use to manage your money?
  • What are your annual earnings? What are your assets and liabilities? How is your credit score?

These types of conversations are critical, especially as our household financial health seems to be declining. A recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau survey looked at the financial health of American households. They found that 37% of households could not cover expenses for longer than one month if they lost their primary source of income.

How to Make Your Relationship Work When You Aren’t Financially Compatible

If you’ve discovered that you and your partner are not financially compatible, don’t fret. Couples can absolutely work together to improve their financial literacy. Consider taking a personal finance class together, reading financial books, and listening to money podcasts. You can also seek the help of a neutral expert to help mediate financial conversations, such as a financial planner, financial advisor, debt consolidation counselor, financial therapist, or coach.

Summing Up

Money can be one of the greatest sources of stress in relationships, yet that doesn't have to be the case. Couples who manage their finances properly tend to enjoy happier and more satisfying relationships. Don't put off talking about money matters until it is too late; by having an open dialogue about money issues together and formulating an agreeable vision of your financial future, you may just overcome any potential hurdles to happiness in marriage!


More from Joyce Marter LCPC
More from Psychology Today