Room for Improvement — Marriage & Money in America

Sep 13, 2021
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In many marriages, money is a perennial trouble spot. Of course, irreconcilable financial differences are a frequently cited cause of divorce, but even among couples that stay together, staying on the same financial page can be a challenge.

A recent Fidelity survey shed some helpful light on the topic, pointing to several aspects of their financial lives that all couples would be wise to evaluate.

Overall good grades, with some areas of concern

Generally speaking, the more than 1,700 couples surveyed by Fidelity gave the state of their financial lives high marks. Some 71% said they communicate about financial matters very well and 61% said they talk about finances at least once a month.

Still, there were areas of concern. One in five couples said money is their greatest relationship challenge, with younger couples more likely to indicate that than older couples. More than two in five married individuals said they argue about money with their spouse at least occasionally. Again, younger respondents were more likely to say that than older respondents.

For some couples, day-to-day money management is a festering issue that goes unaddressed. Some 24% of respondents said they are “often frustrated at their partner’s money habits but let it go for the sake of keeping the peace.”

Among the most common areas of disagreement between spouses, many were related to retirement or investing:

  • 51% disagree about how much savings is needed to retire

  • 48% disagree about the age when they plan to retire

  • 40% disagree about how much risk they’re comfortable taking with their investments

  • 34% disagree on whether they are savers or spenders

  • 34% disagree on their family’s next big savings goal

While 77% of respondents expect to live comfortably in retirement, 52% said they don’t know how much they need to have saved to maintain their current lifestyle in their later years.

And, while 71% said they feel “excellent” or “very good” about their financial health, just half said they make financial decisions jointly with their spouse.

Some expressed concern about what would happen to their spouse financially if they passed away first — 35% of men and 22% of women.


Many of these concerns might be addressed simply by talking about money more often, some by using a tool, such as an online budget, that fosters more financial transparency and better communication, and some by using a planning tool, such as MoneyGuide.

There’s also an excellent Bible study from Compass—Finances God’s Way called Set Your House in Order that does a nice job of helping couples make sure one spouse will be financially prepared for the death of the other.

What practical steps have you taken to get and stay on the same financial page as your spouse?

Written by

Matt Bell

Matt Bell

Matt Bell is Sound Mind Investing's Managing Editor. He is the author of five biblical money management books and the teacher or co-teacher on three video-based small group resources. His latest book, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management, was published by Focus on the Family in 2023. Matt has spoken at churches, universities, and conferences throughout the country and has been quoted in USA TODAY, U.S. News & World Report, and many other media outlets.

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