Valentine’s Day and Love and Money

Photo of a heart shape using heart candies by Monstera from PexelsI came across a recent survey commissioned by the National Financial Education Council asked about talking with others about money, and the results are very interesting. While romantic partners are the most likely person someone would feel comfortable with talking about personal finances, almost half of the respondents wouldn’t speak with anyone about finances! As I write this, we are approaching Valentine’s Day 2022 and so I wanted to delve into this survey and its results.

How would you answer these questions?

This year, they did the survey in late January, contacting 1,000 people to get their answers to these questions:

  • Who can you comfortably talk with about your personal finances?
  • How easy was talking about money with my partner (most recent romantic relationship)?

The first question was asked both in 2022 and 2021. Here’s a chart showing the percentage that answered in each category.

Chart of numbers from surveyThere are two aspects of the results that jump out at me. First, it appears that talking with a romantic partner has dropped significantly since last year. Second, the number of people who don’t feel they could talk to any of these categories about their personal finances had a significant rise. The other categories pretty much stayed the same.

What Can We Learn From the Data?

Since these surveys were done at the end of January, I suspect the answers are more likely reflective of relationships in the previous year which would be 2021 and 2020. This makes me wonder how much of these changes are related to the pandemic and our level of social interaction than any significant changes in feelings about talking with money with others? I do think it would be reasonable to assume that when people are in a less comfortable position with money, they might be less likely to let others know what their situation is.

One of the difficulties in drawing conclusions from the data is that there were no follow-up questions asking why respondents chose their answer. In 2022 half of all surveyed wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about their personal finances to any of the options. Then who can one talk to if not a partner, a relative, or a friend? The missing options are either no one, or a professional.

I’ve always felt a passion toward personal finances and I was surprised to learn after growing up that not everyone has the same level of comfort with this. Indeed, I found that there are people for whom math is a four-letter word! For those who want to learn, or want to get better at it, I can provide one-on-one services to assist. If you fall into that 50% who are not comfortable talking about personal finances, then let’s talk since I am an independent third-party who doesn’t make any judgments about your situation.

A real positive from the study is that among the various categories of people to talk to, the romantic partner is at the top. This is really good and should be done between partners to maintain a transparency and level of trust that is healthy for the relationship. Sometimes when this communication channel is in trouble, a financial coach can be a good option to help work through these barriers to good communication.

They Are Talking With Each Other

The answers provided to the second question (How easy is it to talk to a romantic partner about money) showed that most people who have those conversations are very comfortable communicating with romantic partners (23.7%). The number who were ambivalent (11.9%) and those who felt it was difficult or very difficult (15.1%) were lower. I am curious, though, about the 41.8% who indicated that the question was not applicable, thus not having a recent romantic partner. I would be interested in knowing who they would discuss their personal finances with, but the question did not break it out to that level.

If you are interested in more detail and the answer to other questions asked in previous years, you can review the full results at the NFEC survey site and even take the survey yourself.