How Couples Balance Love and Money

One in four wealthy couples say they argue over money. Those who do are more likely to be unequal contributors to the household finances and are less likely to have disclosed their finances before marriage or living together. What’s the best way to keep financial harmony?

By Jaki Boyer

Couples seeking financial harmony this Valentine’s Day may find the results of PNC’s Wealth and Values Survey helpful and empowering. The findings reveal that the majority of affluent couples rely on financial transparency and trust, and most financial tensions stem from contribution imbalance.

Six in 10 said they fully disclosed their financial situations before they got married or started living with their partner, and 93 percent reported those conversations were helpful. Also, those couples who fully disclosed their financial situations are more likely than those who didn’t to say they pool their money (71 percent versus 61 percent). 

That’s all good news because it’s very important for both partners in a relationship to feel a sense of ownership and awareness of their combined financial situation. In fact, while one in four say they argue over money in their relationship, those who do argue are less likely to have disclosed their finances before marriage or living together.

Additionally, those who do argue are more likely to be unequal contributors to the household finances, younger and still working, and more likely to have attained the majority of their wealth through an inheritance, divorce or legal settlement.

Contribution Imbalance Tips the Scale

Among the 66 percent of millionaire couples where one partner has contributed more wealth than the other, 19 percent say that difference has triggered financial tensions. Thirty-five percent disagree on how to spend, 33 percent are reluctant to discuss finances, 22 percent worry that the couple won’t have as much money over time as expected, 10 percent feel less attractive as a partner, and 8 percent report that one person makes all of the financial decisions for the couple. 

It’s clear from the survey results that the majority of financial tension for couples derives from contribution imbalance and lack of transparency or comfort in talking about money. While it’s unlikely to find a situation where both partners totally contribute equal earnings, what’s more important is getting to a place where both partners contribute equally -- to the discussion, budgeting and decision-making. 

Talk More About the Money

The first step is for both partners to be comfortable having upfront, open and regular communication about finances. The first conversation may be difficult or seem awkward, but it will become easier the more you do it and the more honest and open the conversation feels. 

Couples must create a game plan for how they want to handle money decisions, knowing the plan can evolve over time but that it serves as a guide to hold both partners accountable during their recurring discussions. This may mean setting thresholds for what types of major purchases require agreement by both parties beforehand. Our survey shows that 86 percent of affluent couples report making decisions about major purchases together. 

Lastly, it’s important that both feel a part of the budgeting responsibility as well as the spending benefits. Our survey shows that just under four in 10 share day-to-day household budgeting responsibilities. That can be okay if it is mutually understood that one partner oversees the daily grind, but that they both come together on a regular basis to check in on the bigger picture status of expenses versus earnings, progress with savings and investments, and planning for the fun things like vacation.

Jaki Boyer is a senior wealth strategist for PNC Wealth Management.

View full results of the Wealth & Values Survey.


Jaki Boyer says communication is
the key to financial harmony

Love & Money Tips

Steps for achieving financial harmony, according to Jaki Boyer:

  1. Have upfront, open and regular communication about finances.
  2. Create a game plan for how money decisions are made – together.
  3. Make sure both partners feel a part of the budgeting responsibility as well as the spending benefits.

6 in 10

Fully disclosed their financial situation

...before getting married or living with their partner


1 in 3

Disagree on how to spend

...and are reluctant to discuss finances