11 Worst Money Mistakes Couples Make That Put Their Finances at Risk

Learn the secrets to financial harmony and steer clear of these costly errors.
Updated May 23, 2024
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Financial challenges will likely pop up when you're single, but you may face a whole new set of challenges when you’re in a relationship.

As a couple, you may have to pay off debt together, figure out how to handle bank accounts, or talk about your financial philosophies you can both agree on.

The important thing is that you avoid making mistakes that could hurt your finances. Here are some of the worst money mistakes couples often make and how to avoid them.

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You don’t communicate

Vasyl/Adobe couple at home

Communication is vital in every relationship. Couples need to discuss different financial ideas and decisions before making them.

You may want to discuss how the two of you should invest money, your retirement plans, or how much you want to save or spend.

A lack of communication may cause tension within your relationship and lead to some mistakes that can cause financial problems later.

You’re hiding your money situation

Prostock-studio/Adobe couple misunderstanding

Are you bringing debt to a relationship, or do you tend to overspend?

Discussing these issues as a couple and being honest about your financial successes and challenges as you move forward is essential.

Anything you hide could come to light later, so try to put it all on the table and be honest with your partner about everything.

One person handles all the finances

Anela R/peopleimages.com/Adobe angry couple fight over conflict

It’s important to share financial issues so you both know your financial situation and what you’re dealing with together.

You may designate one person to pay bills or make investments, but both of you should have access to accounts so you can see everything.

If you don’t share your financial details, you may not find out until it’s too late that your partner could be financially irresponsible. It’s also important to have access to all accounts in case something happens to your partner, and you need access to them.

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You don’t have a financial plan

Daniel Laflor/peopleimages.com/Adobe couple fighting and arguing in therapy session with therapist

You may think you and your partner will eventually deal with your finances. But you should get to it now so you have a financial plan in place. 

Consider things like where you want to invest your money, how you want to handle retirement accounts, and what you plan to save or spend each month.

A financial plan can also help you decide when the right time is to hit major financial milestones like buying a house or retiring early.

You’re not working together

peopleimages.com/Adobe mature couple fights on living room sofa

Teamwork makes the dream work, or in this case, teamwork makes the money.

Being a couple means you have a partner in the everyday financial process of your life, so it’s essential to cooperate and build toward a shared dream.

Working together and not against each other may make it easier to achieve your financial goals.

You don’t have a budget

Kay Abrahams/peopleimages.com/Adobe young couple arguing about utility bills

Both of you may be bringing money in each month, but then what?

You need to have a budget so you can track the money you have coming in and where it goes when it’s time to pay bills or make monthly purchases. And don’t forget to allocate money for savings.

A good budget can help you make sound financial decisions rather than steering you in the wrong direction, causing stress for both of you.

You don’t have contingency plans

oreans/Adobe young couple fighting over money

Things happen, and it’s essential to be ready for anything life throws at both of you.

Make financial contingency plans if one of you loses your job, becomes ill, or suffers a financial hardship.

You should build up an emergency fund to cover three to six months of expenses in case of a surprise bill or emergency.

You have joint accounts for everything

ivanko80/Adobe worried couple calculating budget

You might find joint accounts a convenient or easy way to keep track of your money because both of you have money going into the same place.

But you may want to consider individual accounts for some reason or find ways to have a combination of both individual and joint accounts. 

For example, many couples have a joint account for everyday expenses like food and housing but separate accounts for their discretionary spending for clothes or hobbies.

Also, you will have separate accounts for 401(k) plans, IRAs, and other investment accounts.

You ignore tax issues

Rawpixel.com/Adobe couple managing the debt

Being single and being a couple have different tax implications.

When you join your finances, you should talk to an accountant as a couple to figure out how to handle your taxes based on different factors. 

An accountant can help you determine whether to file jointly or singly, the tax implications of investments you buy or sell, and other issues that could be affected by your status as a couple.

Be sure to let your accountant know about your relationship so they can better understand how being a couple can affect your tax returns.

You won’t ask for help

inews77/Adobe couple meeting financial adviser

In a couple, one partner is often financially savvy, and the other isn't or isn’t interested in managing their finances. And sometimes, neither of you knows the best way to achieve financial success.

Get help. It’s OK to talk to a financial advisor, accountant, or other professionals to get advice to put you on the right path.

You might be surprised at how a little financial input from a neutral professional can help you get ahead financially as a couple.

You don’t have goals

Rawpixel.com/Adobe couple managing the debt

You want to be on the same page or at least have a common understanding of your financial goals as a couple.

You may want to work together to save money for a down payment on a home or a vacation you're both excited about. Or perhaps you want to boost your bank account to build an emergency fund.

You can make it easier to achieve your goals if you work on them together. Define your financial goals as a couple and make a plan to achieve them.

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Bottom line

fizkes/Adobe couple enjoying time at home

You have to make plenty of financial decisions every day as a couple, from big-ticket items like a house to simply deciding on the best cashback credit cards.

But it’s important to communicate and work as a team to achieve your financial success as a couple. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from other professionals to ensure you’re on the right track for the immediate future and years to come.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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