Your questions about money and relationships, answered by a financial advisor

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A financial advisor shares his best financial advice for couples. Photo: Samson Katt / Pexels

They say love and money make the world go round. But put the two together and they make a confusing combination.

“It’s a very common thing for couples to have problems with their finances, and a lot of problems in marriages stem from or are affected by financial problems. The problems encountered range from simple budgeting and disbursement of funds to something as serious as crippling debt problems,” said Justin Barnuevo, a financial adviser based in the Philippines.

Finances can be especially tricky for couples dating outside of their socioeconomic class. Not only do they have to deal with public perceptions and judgments, like those who assume that the person making less money is an opportunist or the person making more money is more controlling, but they also have to get the job done. real to understand how to navigate their love in the context of their financial differences.

As a financial advisor, Barnuevo has advised individuals and couples on their finances. For the latter, he observed that solid financial planning helps them build solid foundations for their relationships.

According to him, single people should acquire good financial habits as early as possible. “Whatever your habits are as a single person, these are the same habits that you would bring into the relationship that will affect family dynamics in the future.”

Once an individual is part of a couple, communication and transparency must be added to the skill set. “They have to be very open about it with their partners first. Things that are discussed and talked about are more likely to be resolved, especially those related to family finances,” Barnuevo said.

“That means couples really need to talk about their finances. That’s why it’s best if both have already started developing their good financial habits from the start. But it’s also great to learn it together, and the best time to do it is when they start their relationship. The sooner they can fix financial issues, the more they can focus on the more important things in life, like growing up as a couple.

But where do people start?

We asked Filipinos what questions about money and relationships they would ask a financial advisor. Below, Barnuevo answers them to help couples get started on building their financial habits as they grow in love.

How can couples decide who pays for dates, especially when one of them makes way more money than the other?
Since most couples aim to settle down and live together, there may come a time when their dating expenses will come out of a common fund, if they choose to. They can, meanwhile, pay for themselves when they go on dates, regardless of whether the other earns more. Both must stick to what is allocated for leisure expenses on their cash sheets. They can also suspend spending on important appointments if it is not practical for their budget or perhaps they can opt for less expensive appointments, such as trying new hobbies and cooking at home. and spending time with each other’s families.

How can couples from different socio-economic backgrounds start discussing and planning their finances together?
To establish a good atmosphere of communication and avoid unnecessary tension, couples should have those uncomfortable conversations about money from the start. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the beginning of their relationship where many couples just prefer to have fun and light-hearted conversations all the time. Many of the clients I manage pool their funds, and in their budget or cash flow, indicate their recreation fund which can be used for appointments. It takes a lot of trust, so an early jump on uncomfortable conversations early in the relationship goes a long way.

Is it good for couples to have a joint savings account?
There is no standard answer to this one as it will depend on what the couple prefers. Some want to consolidate all their money into a common account, others would like to have a kind of “financial independence” by keeping only their personal accounts. Regardless of the setup, they still need to talk about their monthly cash flow and decide who pays for what bill or expense.

Should the partner who earns more pay more often?
It will depend on what the couple will agree on, but if we want to be practical about it, it’s safe to assume that most of the time the partner who earns more will probably end up paying more often. This mainly applies to married or cohabiting couples.

Couples who are dating and haven’t settled down yet may want to pay for their own expenses most days and should never have to pay for each other unless they really want to. Kanya-kanyang bayad muna (each person pays what he consumes). Most of the couples I help who are very successful in their financial management turn out to be the ones who practiced it during their dating phase.

In your experience and background, can large differences in income be problematic in relationships?
Not really. I have treated many couple clients where the income of one of the partners is much higher than that of the other. As long as they talk about their cash flow and household responsibilities, everything is fine.

Many factors can come into play in situations like this and we can talk about the possibilities all day. My suggestion will be the same: talk to each other and don’t be afraid to seek advice from a financial planner you can trust.

As for the income bracket, I think it doesn’t matter. As long as the partners are on the same page when it comes to their life goals, value systems, and there is mutual love and respect, the difference in income bracket is not a barrier.

Should someone’s partner’s parents know how much they earn?Others are open about it, others are private. As long as knowing how much they earn doesn’t affect the couple’s cash flow in any way, you should be fine. Personally, I don’t see the benefit of telling anyone (besides your partner and your financial advisor) how much money you make.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

This article is written in Partnership with close-up. VICE and Closeup celebrate love and champion closeness in all its forms. For similar articles, see

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