Why it’s important to talk about money in your relationship

Financial psychologist on destigmatizing financial struggles: 'There's no shame here'

Money remains a taboo subject for many people — especially when it comes to discussing finances with the important people in their lives. 

Almost two-thirds of couples believe they’re “financially incompatible,” meaning their spending, investing and saving habits aren’t aligned, according to a recent survey. This disparity can lead to uncomfortable situations like not wanting to talk about money or even “financial infidelity” — couples hiding their purchases from each other. 

But financial psychologist Bradley Klontz, a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council, said talking about money in a relationship can serve as an opportunity for growth.

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“Somebody’s going to be holding up a mirror and showing you [things] about yourself,” said Klontz, a certified financial planner and a managing principal of YMW Advisors in Boulder, Colorado. “Sometimes we don’t enjoy that experience, but it tends to be good for us when it comes to our relationship with money.”

“Money shame” doesn’t stop at romantic relationships, either. It bleeds into friendships, family dynamics — even the workplace. But studies show that people in relationships tend to do better financially, talking about money helps us learn from each other and workers are “overwhelmingly” in favor of pay transparency. 

So why does this stigma surrounding money still exist? 

I’m going to tell you right now: if you are struggling with money, you are the average American. You are not alone.

Bradley Klontz

Managing Principal, YMW Advisors

With money being one of the top stressors in people’s lives, it makes sense that it’d be uncomfortable to talk about. Dissecting biases and financial behaviors requires vulnerability, and a lot of people fall into the trap of believing common money myths. But so much of how we approach our finances — from talking about money to how we spend it — stems from childhood. That anxiety surrounding money, Klontz said, is also often inherited. 

“If you’re witnessing your parents fighting [about] money, you might think ‘I don’t want to think about this,’ or [that] it’s a dangerous topic.”

But shame does nothing to improve people’s financial situations — if anything, it makes them worse. Not talking these things through leaves people feeling alone in their financial struggles, even though 7 in 10 Americans report feeling stressed about money, according to a new CNBC Your Money Financial Confidence Survey conducted in partnership with Momentive.

“I’m going to tell you right now: if you are struggling with money, you are the average American,” Klontz said. “You are not alone.”

Watch the video above to learn more about destigmatizing money, money scripts and how relationships can help people improve their financial future.

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