The Simple Truth About Love and Money

Dating couples should pay attention to how they fight to predict future money stress.

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While researching my story today on determining whether or not your partner is a good love match, I came across two new books that focus on money and love. Both of them, Marriage and Money and First Comes Love, Then Comes Money, help readers determine their “money personalities” and whether or not their personality meshes well with that of their partners. The authors offer strategies for minimizing the conflicts that can flare up when you disagree about finances.

It seems to me that money in dating or newlywed relationships comes down a pretty simple concept: Do you agree about what you should and shouldn’t spend money on, or not? If you’re both pretty frugal and prefer to save rather than splurge, then you can avoid a lot of disagreements or fights about who racked up the monthly credit card bill. Likewise, two spenders can have lots of fun trying out new five-star restaurants together and sharing concern over their low savings rate.

[See 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]

But for couples together for the long haul, money problems can get far more complicated, because external pressures come into play. Unexpected events such as needy relatives, bankruptcy, unemployment, or health care needs can throw even the most financially-sound couple into disarray—and disagreement. In the early days of dating and marriage, it can be hard to imagine facing such calamities together, much less predict how you would respond to them.

That’s why my money advice to dating or engaged couples is pretty simple: Pay attention to how you handle disagreements now. If differences in opinion—on any topic, not just money—lead to explosive blow-outs, chances are that trend will continue. Given personal differences and the unpredictable, outside forces of nature, you’ll likely face money stress at some point down the road. And when that happens, you’ll probably want to know your partner will be helping you deal with it and not making it worse.

Kimberly Palmer (@alphaconsumer) is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.