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How to Manage your Relationship with Money

There’s no reason why money can’t be sweet, even though it sometimes comes in moderation.

But sadly, just as stress is the number-one romance killer, anxiety can ruin our relationship with money, too — which bleeds out into our personal relationships and wreaks havoc on our love lives.

In January 2021, Morning Consult conducted a Love & Money survey of 2,210 U.S. adults on behalf of Personal Capital. Data from the online interviews reveal that about 57% of U.S. adults say the pandemic has increased the financial stress in their current relationships.

Furthermore, stress is more pronounced among younger respondents: Two in three (66%) partnered adults aged 18 to 34 (Millennials and Gen Z) say the pandemic has increased financial stress in their partnerships — that’s more than any other age group.

If you’re a hopeless romantic, it’s not all doom and gloom. Your money and your love life don’t have to be sources of stress. Ahead, we offer tips on how to “date” your money — whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not — so that you can feel closer to your money and, in turn, what you find important in life.

How to ‘Date’ Your Money

Say these three sentences out loud:

  1. I am so grateful for the money I have in my bank account and the money that’s already on its way to me.
  2. I am expecting a visit from $100 (or $1,000—or $100,000…you choose). I am prepared for it, and I know exactly where I’ll put it or how I’ll use it.
  3. I am looking forward to spending money in ways that create lasting memories, and I commit to showing up fully to make that happen.

Now, notice if that exercise changed your body or your mind at all. Do you feel more open to possibility? Do you feel more prepared and excited for what’s to come? Do you feel like you’ve made your intentions clear?

Congratulations, you just dated your money.

While we know it’s impossible to literally court your money like a human, notice what happens when you plan on money arriving in your bank account the same way you would prepare for a visit from a special guest. Call it “old school,” just as showing up with flowers to pick up your date may make you laugh, but there’s something to be said for stating your intentions with money the way you once had to do if you were courting a high school sweetheart in the 1950s.

Just as you want to present your best self when dating and open up to the possibility of love, you can bring forward a special quality to your relationship with money, too.

And why would you want to partake in this silly act of role play?

For starters, people tend to have more confidence when they are prepared. This goes for dating and for money. In Personal Capital’s survey, half (50%) of respondents reported that the pandemic has made financial stability in a partner more important to them. Just like in dating, you want to show your money that you are stable. Having a plan for it and preparing accordingly builds your confidence and keeps you grounded when money arrives. (Say goodbye to impulse spending.)

Setting money intentions also helps you open up to more of it, since everywhere you go you’re firing off signals that you’ve got a plan. Confidence is contagious — and everyone from prospective employers to potential suitors should take notice and subconsciously start trusting you more with bigger and bigger sums of cash.

Last, when things aren’t going so well with your money, “dating” it like a person helps you become curious, not frustrated. If your partner were to come to you while sad or in a bad mood, you wouldn’t shun them or assume they hated you. You’d get curious, ask what’s wrong, try to find out if you could do something to help them. Likewise, with cash, if you’re short on it, seeing your money as something you “date” helps you step up and try to save the marriage.

Setting Up Your Bank Account for Increased Money Pleasure

Now that you’ve adjusted your attitude about money, there are some simple logistical steps you can take to set up your bank account for routine money dates.

First, let’s start with yourself. We’ve all heard the expression “pay yourself first” and “you can’t give from an empty cup.” In both dating and with money, you have to address your own needs before you can expect to be in a good relationship with the world around you.

Set up your bank accounts (yes, multiple) so that you are automatically and/or routinely “pouring water” into the cups that are important to you — starting with your own savings account. Put aside money upfront for emergencies and goals like buying a car, saving a down payment for a house, or taking a big trip.

Next, set up your checking and savings accounts according to how you know you—or you and your partner—like to spend. Using an app like Personal Capital can help you get a snapshot of your money management. Download a yearly review of all your savings, investments, and spending. If you don’t use an app, pull the past 12 months worth of credit card statements and/or checking/savings account statements.

Looking at the data, determine your budget for the month. Include the big costs like housing and transportation, as well as the smaller costs like utilities, cable, and cell phone bills. You can simplify your budget by thinking about your spending in three tiers:

  • Must-haves (recurring monthly expenses you can’t live without like rent/mortgage, insurance, transportation, food, etc.)
  • Nice-to-haves (discretionary expenses that might change from month to month)
  • Annual expenses (taxes, annual trips, holiday spending)

Your baseline budget is the sum of your monthly “must-haves,” then you can use your discretionary money to pay for the “nice-to-haves.”

Honesty is Most Important

What do Americans value in a financial partner? According to the survey, 58% say they value honesty, and would end the relationship if their partner was being dishonest about their spending.

But here’s a tough truth: It’s easier to be honest in a relationship when you’re first really good at being honest with yourself. The second practice helps the first. Yet, nearly four out of 10 (39%) U.S. adults avoid talking about money with a romantic partner — proving that lots of us are still learning how to open up.

After all, just 31% of respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged them and a partner to have conversations about finances earlier than normal. And just 10% said discussing debt in the first few months of a relationship was appropriate, compared to only 11% who said they would discuss their salary in that same time period. In both cases, a minority said they would actually lead with the blunt truth.

So maybe there is something why we should all work to make money talk less scary. Interestingly, 21% of respondents said that talking “too much” about money is a dealbreaker, but perhaps if you make routine money dates common, money trouble will be less likely to spring up unexpectedly — crowding you and your relationship in the process.

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Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation and is compensated as a freelance writer.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. Compensation not to exceed $500. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money. Any reference to the advisory services refers to Personal Capital Advisors Corporation, a subsidiary of Personal Capital. Personal Capital Advisors Corporation is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training nor does it imply endorsement by the SEC.
Megan DeMatteo is a former CNBC money reporter and Pushcart-nominated poet. She now contributes to various publications with a specialization in personal finance.
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