- Miscommunication around financial tasks, like paying bills, can add stress to any relationship.
- One millennial couple found that automating their bills and their individual savings helped them get organized.
- Experts say spending less time on the routine tasks frees up more time to discuss important financial decisions as a couple.
- This article is a contributed piece as part of a series focused on millennial financial empowerment called Master your Money.
"Did you pay that?"
"Oh no, I thought you did!"
We've all had this conversation about paying bills with a significant other. Instead of repeating this dynamic, why not consider a different approach, like automation?
Automating your finances can do more than just help streamline paying your bills, it can also help your relationship with your partner. Fighting about money is a top cause of divorce among married couples. Automation can help reduce the time we spend sharing spreadsheets and nagging each other about who paid the mortgage and the gym membership.
Maia Bittner, a 32-year-old startup investor, and her boyfriend Dave Corson-Knowles, a 39-year-old engineering manager from Camano Island, Washington, are big believers in the power of automating their money to make sure that shared expenses get paid seamlessly and on time.
Taking care of shared tasks and working toward individual goals
"Even if paying bills manually is easy, it's still a burden to remember you have to do it. And spreadsheets are a pain, you always have to remember to add things and double check it and worry," Bittner said. "Why not use our brains for something more productive and enjoyable?"
That said, automating your finances can help you as an individual within couplehood. Not all couples have the same financial habits or money personalities. Each one can benefit without necessarily having to automate money into the same bucket. Every relationship is different and couples juggle their money and pay shared and individual expenses in their own way.
Bittner and Corson-Knowles have their mortgage set up on autopay, which comes out of their joint account, which they fund with their paycheck via direct deposit. For example, Bittner likes to auto-invest weekly into her public market investments, including retirement, and put the rest into early-stage startups.
"I put money in every Monday, I don't even think about it," Bittner said.
Corson-Knowles, on the other hand, is a saver. He likes to save as much as possible from his paycheck and sock it away into his high-interest savings account.
Putting bills and savings on autopilot means there's more time to discuss big financial decisions
Even the most devoted couple has to work hard to keep the peace and keep love alive. Miscommunications about money can add to the strain.
"Automation reduces the amount of time and energy we spend on financial decisions," said Jeff Kreisler, the co-author of "Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter."
"We need to talk to our partners about big financial decisions, not hide from them," he said, "but if half of our prodding is about something that causes us stress, then that can erode the overall positive tone to our communications, which are the underpinning of a successful relationship."
Try regular money dates, a set monthly meet-up in a relaxed atmosphere where the two of you can go over your shared expenses, bills, debts, and figure out what's working and what can be made simpler or be adjusted.
It's hard enough for couples to master their money when they come into a relationship with limited knowledge about how to handle their personal finances. The right tools, both technological and emotional, can ensure success.
Aditi Shekar is the founder and CEO of Zeta, and a member of BI's Money Council.