By Heidi Stevens
Twenty percent of surveyed couples say they would have sex more frequently if they had more money, according to financial analyst Pamela Yellen.
Yellen, author of “The Bank on Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future” (BenBella Books), created a love and money self-assessment for couples to learn whether they’re financially compatible, and some of the results are fascinating. (Frightening?)
Thirty-one percent of respondents said they have kept spending secrets from each other, including hiding purchases, lying about the price of purchases and taking money from their partner’s wallet without asking. Close to half said they never discussed finances before committing to the relationship.
And then there’s the sexual frequency thing.
“Financial stress causes problems in almost 70 percent of relationships,” Yellen (no relation to the Federal Reserve’s Janet Yellen, by the way) told me. “Many couples say their worst fights ever are over money.”
So, more money, less fighting … more sex?
With that in mind, I asked Yellen to tell me five money questions every couple should ask each other right now. Here goes:
-What kind of spending do you do on birthdays and other special occasions?
Do you stick to a budget and look for inexpensive ways to celebrate? Splurge on special gifts and experiences? Spend too much and regret it later? Do you believe it’s the thought that counts? (Or sort of resent that notion?) All questions that can come up around that topic, Yellen said.
-How does your extended family handle money?
“It’s really good to understand how people’s attitudes about money developed,” she said. “Very often people had parents who were total opposites: Their mother was a saver and their father was spending every penny. It’s possible to be in a happy relationship with a partner or spouse who is opposite from you, but you need to find out where they’re coming from and how they got there.”
-What does a “good investment” mean to you?
“This gets at people’s level of risk tolerance,” Yellen said. “Couples often have different risk tolerance and that’s where a lot of stress comes from. Women, in general, are a little bit more security conscious, and men tend to be more risk-takers and a little bit more competitive. That can be the cause of a lot of strife.”
-What is your process when shopping for and purchasing a big-ticket item?
Do you shop around? Impulse buy? Consult expert ratings? And what if your partner does the opposite? “One thing you can agree on is, ‘If a purchase is over x dollars, we discuss it together and agree on it together,'” Yellen said. “What is that dollar amount: $300? $3,000? And you don’t make that purchase without having that conversation.”
-If you won $10,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket today, what would you do?
“It’s very telling how people would deal with a windfall,” she said. “And it gets into the whole thing about how much of an emergency savings plan you think you should have, what you think is worth splurging on, all of that.”
These conversations can happen before or after you’ve committed to someone, Yellen said. And the answers don’t have to be deal-breakers.
“Opposites sometimes do attract,” she said. “You need to be able to respect each other’s differences, and that’s all about being able to sit down and communicate. Talk about your goals, talk about where you’ve gone off the rails, be willing to make compromises and don’t point fingers _ that’s probably the hardest one of all.”
And maybe don’t take money out of each other’s wallets without asking. (That’s the extent of my financial advising.)