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What Are Financial Boundaries?

By Eric Dean JD, MBA, MA, MA, LPC, CADC

Fighting about money is one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States. 

As a therapist who does Financial Counseling, I work with couples to create financial goals, facilitate open communication about finances, and explore emotions associated with money and financial decisions. In my experience most couples, even partners who have been together for a long time, have had very few substantive conversations about finances or financial boundaries. Among many other benefits, financial boundaries facilitate more constructive conversations around money-related matters and can even have a positive impact on other facets of your relationship. For example, couples share that working together to set financial boundaries has given them more confidence to have uncomfortable discussions around parenting styles. 

What Are Financial Boundaries? What Every Couple Needs

In this post, I will define and share examples of financial boundaries and list some of the benefits to setting them in your relationship. 

What Are Financial Boundaries?

Boundaries are rules, limits, and/or expectations we set for ourselves or with others, which protect us and allow us to live consistently with our goals and values. 

Here are nine concrete examples of financial boundaries:

  1. John and Jane have separate credit cards, but do not have access to each other’s statements. They set a boundary to communicate with one another before making a purchase greater than $500.
  2. Tom and Maggie have a joint savings account which they use to save for a down payment on a house. They have set a boundary to contribute 15% of their post-tax employment income every pay period. 
  3. Pat and Lynn want to put away money for their daughter’s college education. To save money, they agree to eat out no more than 3 times per week. 
  4. Toby and Carol agree not to take out any more loans so they can focus on paying down the high-interest loans they have.
  5. To increase financial transparency, Bill and Lena agree to meet at least once per week to discuss their financial situation. They will assess what they are doing well and what could be improved. 
  6. After Jason made a series of irresponsible financial decisions that negatively impacted his relationship with Julie, they agree to set a boundary that gives Julie access to Jason’s bank accounts for 3 months. 
  7. After Phillip receives a substantial inheritance, he and his partner Melanie set boundaries around how much of the inheritance will be contributed to the relationship and how much will remain solely Phillip’s.
  8. If a family member asks for money, Sierra and Cameron agree to discuss this first before giving the family member a gift or loan. 
  9. After Mike finds out that his partner Jaime has been dishonest about the amount of debt they hold, they set a boundary to meet with a financial therapist once per week.  

What are the benefits of financial boundaries?

Financial boundaries have many benefits to your relationship. You will have:

  1. Greater financial transparency and awareness. 
  2. A deeper understanding of your partner’s financial values.
  3. Enhanced collaboration to achieve financial goals.
  4. Increased emotional security from having more clarity on your financial picture. 

Wrapping Up

Conversations with your partner about money will be awkward and uncomfortable, but you will feel relieved after having them. While it is never too late to start talking about finances, the earlier the better, because the longer you avoid the topic, the harder it will be to start talking about it.

Financial Therapy is a powerful tool to help you initiate supportive, nonjudgmental, and constructive conversations about your finances. 

So, let’s get started – call Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990.

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