When Love and Money Collide: The Perilous Path of Disastrous Financial Choices in Relationships

Advisors need not be therapists or certified couples counselors to know that money can be problematic in marriages. It is, after all, one of the leading causes of divorce.

Financial professionals also know that committed relationships can take on different forms beyond traditional marriage. There are common law marriages and there are plenty of instances of two people caring for each other, sharing one roof and not needing a title such as “married.” In all cases, the longer the relationships last, the more front and center money can become.

It’s only slight hyperbole to say the proverbial everyone knows that money matters in relationships. For better or worse, many of us get a taste of this when we’re young, witnessing parents argue (or worse) about financial issues.

Taking all of the above into account, it stand to reason to some people are becoming more proactive when it comes to money and relationships. Data confirm as much.

Money Can Be a Relationship Killer. It Doesn’t Have to Be.

A recent survey by Sure Payroll, a division of PayChex, indicates that 40% of those polled ended a relationship because of a poor financial decision.

It’s worth noting that the poll didn’t define “relationships.” So it’s not a stretch to infer that some of those queried filed for divorce due to a financial transgression committed by their spouse while some may have seen something they didn’t like, financially speaking, in a dating relationship.

The Sure Payroll study somewhat jibes with other research suggesting that financial infidelity is very much an issue and it’s one that’s more prominent among younger clients, many of whom aren’t yet married. So kudos to millennials the older Gen Zers that are prioritizing financial compatibility in relationships because it appears some scrapping those relationships on financial grounds prior to saying “I do.”

“Those surveyed also admit to regrets about decisions they made when they were young (27%) and their career (27%). Interestingly, 23% have misgivings about their partner, and 22% regret certain parenting decisions,” according to Sure Payroll.

Speaking of Compatibility…

As I’m fond of saying in this space, advisors aren’t couples counselors or therapists nor should they pretend to be. However, in interactions with single clients, it can be beneficial to traverse some relationship topics.

One of which is the concept of opposites attracting. The Sure Payroll survey notes about 50% of those polled believe opposites attract. However, when it comes to money and long-term relationships, 50% isn’t a good enough percentage.

What the 50% from the survey represents is that those in that group want to be with a partner that’s more financially decisive. It’s possible that some folks – both men and women – for a variety of reasons, relish that role, but it might not be conducive to long-term relationship success.

It’s also risky for the partner who is financially indecisive because that person could be left vulnerable and confused in the event the relationship ends, regardless of the reason.

Related: It Pays To Be a Financial Planner. Literally.