Many Couples Lack Financial Unity

March 12, 2013 ( - First comes love, then comes marriage... then comes shared financial bliss? 

Not so, according to a survey by TD Ameritrade, which found couples talk about money twice a month and fight over it five times a year. 

“With the median age for first-time marriages approaching 30, combining finances is not as simple as it once was,” said Carrie Braxdale, managing director, investor services at TD Ameritrade. “Couples are bringing more financial baggage into the relationship than ever before. They have 401(k)s, student loan debt, investments and even mortgages. So, it’s more important than ever for couples to talk about their finances and work together to develop a plan.”

When it comes to choosing the perfect partner, personality (20%), character (18%) and looks (17%) topped the list of qualities respondents look for. Things like money (5%) and potential earnings (3%) were less important.

However, the survey found certain poor financial habits are undesirable in a potential partner. Lack of motivation to get ahead (66%), relying on parents for financial support (65%), having significant credit card debt (65%) and poor money management skills (64%) were the most common financial deal-breakers when it comes to selecting a potential mate.

The survey also revealed some financial trust and transparency issues among couples:

  • Forty percent (40%) of respondents said they do not completely trust their partner to manage their combined finances. 
  • More than one in three (38%) said they were only somewhat, slightly or not at all aware of their significant other’s debts. 
  • And one-fifth (21%) said they sometimes hide their spending from their significant other.


According to the survey, nearly 60% of couples are paying for their own wedding, at an average cost of $28,000 for Gen Y. What’s more, that price tag does not include the honeymoon costs, which adds another $3,400 on average. But, these young couples think it’s worth every penny–82% say they do not regret how much they spent on their wedding, and 89% do not regret what they paid for their honeymoon.

Things like communication gaps and lack of budgeting could cause pain points for couples as they settle into married life. The survey found 43% of couples admittedly do noit follow a budget, and half jointly share household financial responsibilities. Female respondents said they were more likely to tackle groceries (48% vs. 25% of men), day-to-day expenses (28% vs. 26% of men) and the household budget (40% vs. 28% of men). Male respondents are more often solely responsible for investing decisions (45% vs. 27% of women), retirement savings (39% vs. 25% of women) and tax returns (44% vs. 32% of women).

“While discussing money may not be the most romantic of gestures, it is important to not only have those financial discussions early in a relationship, but to continue having them throughout your marriage to help avoid financial surprises and minimize financial arguments,” Braxdale said.