Fewer than one in 10 couples (9 percent) have regular, planned meetings to discuss their finances, according to a new survey by John Hancock’s Twine, a new savings and investing app.
A majority of couples (70 percent) say they talk about money only sporadically and during casual conversation, while 11 percent do it over text or email. But financial experts say that’s not enough.
Regular discussions are critical to keeping a couple’s financial life on the right track, says Steve Dorval, head of advice and innovation at John Hancock -- especially for couples that pool their money.
Avoiding financial conversations
The survey of 1,000 adults in long-term relationships revealed that 74 percent of couples share a checking account and 68 percent share a savings account; 68 percent said they share one or more credit cards with their partner.
However, nearly one-third of those surveyed admitted they have feelings of anxiety, confusion, or fear when it comes to saving with their partner.
Communication was a major barrier to collaborative saving for most couples, with 57 percent of participants noting they tend to avoid bringing it up.
While a majority of respondents say they talk to their partner about financial goals, the findings suggested that couples’ lack of regular, predetermined financial discussions may be hurting their chances of working towards and achieving their goals.
"These findings highlight a key issue for consumers navigating their finances: saving and managing money can be difficult and confusing," Dorval said.
“Discussing life goals regularly is a great way for couples to get on the same page regarding their finances,” Dorval told ConsumerAffairs. “Life goals are milestones couples hope to reach before retirement (e.g., planning a wedding, buying a house, going on a dream vacation).”
“When couples have a clear understanding of their shared and individual goals, they can back up into a plan for saving for them, together,” he said. “In addition, figuring out how you want to combine your finances -- if at all -- is critical.”
Here are a few tips that can help couples set and reach their financial goals, according to the team at Twine.
Set a goal. Pick a goal to achieve in the next one, five, 10, or even 20 years and figure out how much to save monthly.
Establish a timeline. Once you have communicated with your partner about your shared and individual goals, establish a timeline for when you want to accomplish them. Doing so will help you figure out how much to save monthly.
Create an automatic savings plan. Committing yourself to an automatic savings plan allows you to set it and forget it, says Dorval. Make sure that your goal and savings plan takes into consideration a monthly budget of your expenses.
Save small amounts. Saving in smaller, consistent amounts is often more successful and is more predictable.
Use technology. Using technology or downloading a mobile app can help couples set goals and keep moving in the right financial direction. Of the 38 percent of survey respondents who said they used an app or technology to manage or save their money, more than three-quarters (84 percent) said it has helped them in some way (either by saving more money, saving faster, or forcing saving behaviors.)