Is Your Significant Other Bad With Money? Advice for How to Manage a Financially Negligent Spouse

ACCC offers tips on how to best handle and overcome differing money management habits in a relationship.

September 11, 2014

While marriage often means the communion of two salaries, it also means the compacting of two financial situations, including the bad. While managing individual finances can be challenging enough, combining finances can be significantly overwhelming and present a couple with new challenges and even discoveries about their better half.

In fact, a recent survey completed by American Consumer Credit Counseling found that, of all topics, money is most likely to prompt a spat in a relationship. An overwhelming 54 percent of survey respondents stated that financial issues are the leading cause of stress in their relationships, while only 5 percent of respondents indicated fidelity and trust were an issue and 9 percent cited in-laws as the biggest stress trigger.

One of the largest contributors to this stress is differing money management styles. For those consumers with significant others who have poor money management skills, there is a solution. Neither spouse needs to be a professional accountant, but both need to be accountable to the other.

“Many couples, especially newlyweds or those newly cohabitating, struggle with making financial decisions and merging financial behaviors, the combining of bank accounts, or keeping finances separate,” said Steven Trumble, President and CEO of ACCC. “For these reasons, it is important to go over what accounts you have and how much debt you carry, and be clear on how you expect money to be handled.”

If you sense an issue at hand with your spouse, open the dialog up immediately before it goes too far. Explain how making the wrong money decisions will impact the current financial situation as well as any future financial situations for both of you. Like it or not, once married, both debts and income often become shared financial responsibilities. To avoid disagreements and long term disasters, ACCC has created six tips for couples to stick to when handling finances in a relationship:

  • Be a team – Arguments can arise from one spouse spending what the other spouse considers to be too much money. Create a financial budget and plan together, do the bills together, and review your net worth together. If you do anything related to your finances, make sure your spouse is involved and has a say in the decision process.
  • Hold weekly budget review meetings – If one spouse is doing all of the finances, it’s very difficult for the other spouse to know the current financial state of the household. Even with a budget, a lack of communication can make it difficult to know how much is left in the “grocery category” or the “entertainment category.” To solve this problem, pick one night of the week to review your finances. Pick a time when you and your spouse can devote 15-30 minutes without interruption.
  • Establish an emergency fund – The most important thing you can do to keep your finances under control — and to avoid using credit cards and going into debt — is to establish an emergency fund. When planning your budget, allocate a portion for emergencies, savings and retirement. Nothing causes stress more than running out of money before all the bills are paid. Establish a $1000-$2000 emergency fund to cover those unexpected expenses. The key is that each spouse must agree to not touch these funds without the other’s agreement.
  • Evaluate your financial goals – After creating and reviewing your budget for a period of time and establishing your emergency fund, it’s important to discuss both of your financial goals such as starting a family, buying a new car, saing for a home or traveling. By discussing and defining your mutual goals with your partner, you will reiterate the importance of staying accountable.
  • Don’t keep money secrets – While secret trading or gambling may not be that common, a survey by KeyBank saw 36 percent of men and 40 percent of women confess that they had at one time or another lied to their spouse about the price of something they bought.
  • Review your progress – If your spouse has taken responsibility for a lack of control or misuse of funds, support them throughout their attempts to better manage money. Whether through weekly or monthly updates or progress reports, or just supporting their decisions to save, play a crucial role in facilitating their path to better handling their money.

ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:

  • For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
  • For bankruptcy counseling. call 866-826-6924
  • For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
  • Or visit us online at

About American Consumer Credit Counseling

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management and debt relief through education, credit counseling, and debt management solutions. Each month, ACCC invites consumers to participate in a poll focused on personal finance issues. The results are conveyed in the form of infographics that act as tools to educate the community on everyday personal finance issues and problems. By learning more about financial management topics such as credit and debt management, consumers are empowered to make the best possible financial decisions to reach debt relief. As one of the nation’s leading providers of personal finance education and credit counseling services, ACCC’s certified credit advisors work with consumers to help determine the best possible debt solutions for themACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.  To participate in this month’s poll, visit and for more financial management resources visit