When it comes to relationships, what makes two people financially compatible? Is it agreeing on the best ways to spend and save? Is it compromising on certain money habits and preferences? Is it always splitting 50/50, or taking it in turns to pay the bill?

Our recent Smart Money People research found that 92% of adults think it’s important for couples to have a similar outlook on saving money. And nearly one-fifth say that a lack of financial compatibility has previously contributed to a breakup. Financial matters have the potential to make or break a relationship.

We asked Samantha Secomb, Chartered Financial Planner and Founder of Women’s Wealth for her expert insight into financial compatibility in relationships.

Amongst the Women’s Wealth clients, we see different approaches to managing their finances as a couple. Some defend independence, some throw everything into the ring, and some find a balance between the two. But I think it’s important to recognise that habits and expectations are established early in a relationship.

Who paid for what on your first date? The first time you had a romantic date night – who hosted, cooked and supplied the ingredients? Your first joint holiday – how did you pay? When you first bought a present for a mutual friend, who chose it and who paid?

Let's say you decide to share a home. After all, it’s cheaper than renting two spaces right? But how will the rent and bills be shared? If you’re persuaded to chuck out your old sofa because the other one is smarter, what happens if you need to furnish an alternative place in the future? Will it be a case of “that's my sofa, not yours” or did it become “ours” at some point?

We tend to develop patterns and fall into behaviours and routines around money without doing an analysis of what’s fair and sustainable. Part of the challenge is that we avoid talking about it because we are often worried about the outcome or embarrassed to ask for what we want or need.

Being able to have a frank and open money discussion is vital for a healthy relationship in my opinion. But I also know many people who believe money is a personal subject and that couples have a right to privacy and independence. Even if a couple are living together and co-parenting. Much will depend on our history with money. Consider the following questions:

  • What did your parents say and do about money matters?
  • Do you treat money as a tool to enable a lifestyle or a resource to protect the family? Or is it a combination?
  • Do you come from a background where money was available and your needs were met?
  • Do you recall going without and fear about where future resources were coming from?

When heading into a money discussion it always helps to “know thyself”. What are the money scripts that run in your head? How do you perceive and use money? Then get curious about your partner in this regard. Tell them what you have learnt about yourself. Find out if you have different ideas or if you align. Discuss where the ideas come from and if they remain relevant in your current life together. Sometimes old scripts need tearing up. But many are connected to our value systems, cultural beliefs, security and identity. Rattle the foundations too much and you risk destabilising the relationship. However, if you have a genuine curiosity and you care enough about someone to respect their values and opinions, maybe you can accept differences. You could even capitalise on the fact that one of you may be better at building reserves and the other a gifted shopper. One can deal with getting the best interest rates and the other can keep the shopping bill in check.

In summary, just because you went Dutch on your first date, it doesn't mean that a 50/50 split is the way things go forever. If you paused your career to be the primary carer, it doesn't mean all your partner's future earnings are theirs and you get pocket money. We need to challenge ourselves and build robust and intentional relationships around money issues because they can make or break us.

Nurturing healthy money habits in your relationship can start with finding the right financial products for your collective needs. Reading customer reviews is the best way to learn more about a provider and its products.