Over 50% of Kiwis would rather talk about politics, sex, and drugs than talk about money

Over the years we have come across many situations where couples have different attitudes towards money. Sometimes these differences create a lot of tension in the relationship, and it is interesting to see how couples, and families, deal with it or don’t deal with it.


When you are single money is yours, so making money decisions is relatively easy. You can do as you please. In a relationship however there comes a time where income and assets are shared. This is when the different dynamics of attitudes, formed within the family and community culture the protagonists have come from, may become apparent. This will look different for everyone.

Some couples will have their own separate bank accounts and assets, others will operate separate accounts but have a joint account for shared bills, some will just pitch everything together and operate as one. There is no right or wrong answer as to which is the best way to operate; but the key is finding out what works for the both of you.

With couples tending to form long-term relationships much later than previous generations there can be a divergence in the assets and income that each brings to the relationship. There are complications that arise when a second relationship is formed especially if there are children from the previous relationships. Cultural backgrounds matter too, with some cultures expecting that their offspring should financially support their extended family and community.

According to a Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) survey, over 50% of Kiwis would rather talk about politics, sex, and drugs than talk about money. For many people, money is a taboo subject. The topic itself is not the issue, it’s the emotions, beliefs, and values that are often associated with it, which if not understood, can get in the way of healthy conversations. See the link below for further reading: https://retirement.govt.nz/news/latest-news/money-week- 2019-now-were-talking/

We also see it with older generations, particularly when one partner (usually the male) is entrusted to make all the financial decisions. The other partner may tend to take a back seat and will often not want to be bothered participating in financial decisions even though at some stage it may be in their vital interest to do so. The "I just leave it up to him" attitude comes unstuck when she may outlive him by 7-10 years.

Below are some of the foundations for establishing a healthy financial relationship taken from the Good Shepherd website:

  • Mutual respect: valuing who the other person is, appreciating what they bring to the relationship and understanding each other’s boundaries.
  • A safe supportive environment: feeling safe physically, emotionally. Feeling comfortable to be yourself and share your opinions – even if they are different.
  • Trust: having confidence and faith in each other when you are not sure.
  • Equality: both people feeling involved in decisions and having a willingness to negotiate situations.
  • Independence: spending time together but also your own space and a life outside of the relationship – including financial independence.
  • Regular communication: open and honest, being able to disagree and resolve conflict without fear of how your partner might respond regardless of what might be said.

The key to all this is communication. Below are links to websites which have some useful information, questionnaires, and toolkits to help set the scene and get the conversation started.

https://goodshepherd.org.nz/healthy-financial-relationships/ what-is-a-healthy-financial-relationship/

https://www.npr.org/2021/08/16/1028081097/money- financial-intimacy-talk-relationship-advice

It is also recommended that you speak to your professional financial adviser who can help you converge your ideas into a mutually agreeable financial action plan.