The Marriage of Love & Money: How to Protect Yourself From Financial Heartbreak

by Manisha Thakor

What’s going on (financially) in the private lives of couples across America? As someone who earns a living providing financial advice for women, I’m fascinated by this question. A recent study about the money behavior of mates, conducted by Learnvest and Ameritrade, yielded the following insights:

  • The typical couple has three primary financial concerns: Having enough money to retire, enjoy their lives, and live comfortably today.
  • Respondents reported that they talk with their partners about money on an average of 20 times a year and fight over money at least 5 times a year.
  • Overall, the study found that older generations are more likely to feel in control and secure when it comes to their finances – and they’re also significantly more likely to feel as if they’re on the same page with their partner in regard to money.

Interestingly, while financial conflicts are often listed as a leading cause of divorce, those who participated in the study said that when it comes to finding their ideal partner, money and potential earning were not a priority. Both men and women valued personality, character and looks above financial success. This raises an important question: How can you figure out if you and your sweetie have financial views that could put your relationship in jeopardy – and if so, what can you do about it?

This insightful piece from The New York Times highlights the stories of several couples and what they learned from financial heartbreak. Here are my four favorite ideas inspired by the article:

  • Know the financial profile of your partner. Are you marrying a spender or a saver? Ask about potential debt and the state of his or her credit score. Map out a plan together to address any issues that arise from this conversation.
  • Talk openly about financial values and goals. This includes the kind of lifestyle you each envision for retirement. Make note of where your dreams overlap and where they diverge.
  • Consider a financial three-way. If you do not feel you are financially compatible, but still want to move forward with marriage, consider keeping three types of accounts: yours, mine, and ours.
  • Get professional help. Hire a reputable financial advisor to help you find common ground and honor both of your needs. For couples starting out, I am a big fan (and at times financial education partner with) the innovative new full service financial planning firm NestWise. Another firm I really admire for help with investment decisions is Betterment. Both firms manage money for clients of all asset levels in a very similar manner to what I offer to my high net worth clients at the $1 million to $10+ million level.

Financial knowledge creates financial freedom and power. Under the influence of romance, it is easy to be distracted from practical concerns, but including financial planning in the creation of your authentic partnership will help sustain the love life you desire. Having the “money talk” (more than once!) is an investment well worth making in your relationship.


[Want more financial love? You can follow Women's Financial Literacy Initiative founder, Manisha Thakor, on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, sign up to get her email updates delivered right to your inbox here]

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Manisha Thakor

From Manisha's linkedin profile page:

Manisha Thakor is the Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM Alliance. 

Manisha and her colleagues provide both evidence-based wealth advisory services for high-net-worth households and core asset management solutions for women and families nationwide with $80,000 or more in investible assets. 

An ardent financial literacy advocate for women, Manisha is the co-author of two critically acclaimed personal finance books: ON MY OWN TWO FEET: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance and GET FINANCIALLY NAKED: how to talk money with your honey. She is on Faculty at The Omega Institute and serves as a Financial Fellow at Wellesley College. Manisha is also a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Experts Panel, a member of the 2015 CNBC Financial Advisor’s Council, and wearing her financial educator’s hat serves as a part of TIAA-CREF’s Women’s Initiative. 

Manisha's financial advice has been featured in a wide range of national media outlets including CNN, PBS, NPR, The Today Show, Rachel Ray, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The LA Times, Real Simple, Women’s Day, Glamour, Essence, and MORE magazine.

Prior to joining the Buckingham team, Manisha spent over twenty years working in financial services. On the institutional side she worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and client relations executive at SG Warburg, Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital, Fayez Sarofim & Co., and Sands Capital Management. After this she moved to the retail side and ran her own independent registered investment advisory firm, MoneyZen Wealth Management. 

Manisha earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997, her BA from Wellesley College in 1992 and is a CFA charterholder. She lives in Portland, OR where she delights in the amazing Third Wave coffee scene and stunning natural beauty of the Pacific NorthWest. Manisha’s website is MoneyZen.com.