Personal finance experts share love and money tips

By Marianne Curphey

The average love-struck couple spends an average of nearly £100 each on Valentine's Day gifts, according to debt advice company Baines & Ernst. However, despite our willingness to spend lots of money on our Valentines, many of us are shy about discussing financial issues, even with our nearest and dearest.

Often this is because money is an emotionally charged subject.

"Money is about power and control," says Karen Pine, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and co-author of Sheconomics, a financial advice book targeted at women.  "The way a couple talks about money can be a barometer for the health of the partnership."

So what can we do to ensure our relationships don't founder on money problems? We asked personal finance bloggers and writers for their tips.

Be honest
Hidden debt, if discovered, can become an instant relationship killer. Not only can it cause undue stress and then a massive argument -- but it demonstrates that the debt-hider didn't trust the other partner enough to reveal it. money-and-relationships

"It's not a competition," says Yvonne Goodwin, money blogger, financial adviser and founder of Yvonne Goodwin Wealth Management. "Remember, you're in it together so choose to be open and honest."

Hidden money can also be a problem.

"Some women I meet have a ‘running away' fund which I would consider a major deal breaker because it suggests there is some mistrust from the start," Goodwin says.

Be diplomatic
How well you and your partner can communicate about money often boils down to how and when you bring it up. Don't do it last thing at night when you are both tired, for example. Consider giving each other five minutes of uninterrupted time to talk. Then swap over. This ensures both parties won't feel they have to justify what they say or feel interrupted all the time, says Becky Wright, a counsellor and therapist who runs New Leaf Coaching and Life Design.

"Or you could each write down and give to each other what you see as the solution to your money situation."

If you are fed up because your partner keeps blowing the budget on takeaways and meals out, it's OK to say so, says Sarah Pennells, founder of the website SavvyWoman and author of Financial Bliss: How to Grow Wealthy Together. But don't make the conversation about every little thing that winds you up. Likewise, if you're criticised, don't immediately counter-attack, tempting though it is.

Instead of criticizing your partner, ask what his or her parents thought about money, suggests Suzy Greaves, life coach and found of the Big Leap Coaching Company.  This can help you get to the root of your partner's money philosophy. Or, ask non-confrontational questions, such as "What is the dominant need in your relationship to money -- freedom or security? What is the greatest fear around money? What does money really buy? What would you change if you won a million pounds -- and how can you start to do some of that right now?," Greaves says.

Such questions should spark an interesting discussion -- and tell you lots about your partner.

"How we feel about money is usually in direct correlation to how we feel about power, and how comfortable we about our own vulnerability -- our ability to give and receive," Greaves says.

Be aware of your differences
Depending on your upbringing, your money values may be very different from those of your partner. If you grew up barely scraping by, you may view money as something that helps you survive day to day and little more, Wright says. Those who come from wealth may have the mind-set that they deserve to be paid and are therefore prepared to take more risks -- and that can put them at odds with a partner who sees things from a survival perspective.

Differences in income can also put partners on unequal footing.

"The earner can often feel they have all the power, leaving the partner feeling powerless," Wright says. "This can be a financial obstacle which can be overcome by both people looking at what their definition of value, power and control is in the relationship."

If a partner's splurges are what's causing arguments, the more frugal partner might consider releasing some pressure by agreeing to create a splurge fund.

"Give yourselves permission to have some ‘fun' money or a ‘wild living' fund, so that you build into your plan some money for yourselves that is purely for enjoyment," Goodwin says.

Be prepared for changes
Life changes that happen over the course of a relationship can bring financial changes as well. A job loss, one partner going part time or starting a new business, a promotion and having a baby can disrupt even the most carefully calibrated financial balance.

Yet, while such life changes require negotiation, they won't necessarily cause problems -- unless one partner uses them to  make a power play.

"If, for example, your partner thinks he or she can make all the money decisions because you're now earning less or you've been made redundant, it's not a recipe for a happy relationship," Pennells says.

Don't be judgemental
Once you've come to understand your partner's outlook on money, know that it doesn't have to make or break your relationship.

"It's easy to think that your way is the right way," Pennells says. "If you have an understanding of why you manage money the way you do -- always spend it, always save it, can't face dealing with it or whatever --  it may help you to be more forgiving if your partner doesn't share your views."

If your partner doesn't spend much on presents, whereas you spend a lot, that doesn't mean he or she loves you less.

"It probably means presents were fairly modest when they were growing up or that they believe 'it's the thought that counts,' " Pennells says.

Likewise, if your partner wants to spend money on a hobby and you don't like it, it doesn't make him or her selfish.

"Most of us need something to take us away from the stresses of work and or day-to-day life," Pennells says. "Unless your partner is getting into lots of debt to fund their hobby, it doesn't have to be a problem."

See related: 3 signs your relationship is headed for financial trouble

Published: 12 February 2013