The idea of talking about money is enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. There’s so much shame and embarrassment around our finances – not to mention a complete lack of education – that you wouldn’t even dream of asking your friends what salary they’re on.

TV presenter and life coach Anna Williamson wants to smash this age-old taboo around money. In her new show Save Well Spend Better she gets couples to talk honestly about their finances, and helps them work through their issues, along with money experts.


According to Williamson, “the number one cause of all relationship breakdowns in the UK is down to financial stress”, so it’s obviously not something you can ignore. Here’s why Williamson thinks all couples need to have the awkward chat, and how to actually go about it.

Why we need to talk about money

“It’s a very British thing – we don’t talk about money because it’s vulgar,” sighs Williamson. She knows this from experience, and was brought up thinking money was a topic you should avoid like the plague. To be clear, Williamson says: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a level of privacy and respect around our finances,” but this isn’t necessarily the right approach in a relationship.

For Williamson, communication and trust are two vital elements of any successful relationship, but if this doesn’t include talking about money, she says: “It’s going to be a lot harder for that relationship to carry on in a healthy way.” When communication breaks down, Williamson thinks the relationship ending “is almost an absolute given”.

A lot of the shame around money stems from how little we actually know about it. “At school, we don’t really get a financial education about how to save, and also the rules are always changing in the financial world,” Williamson explains. “If we’re not communicating that with our loved ones, we can get ourselves very unstuck. There’s a lot of embarrassment around being honest about what we do and don’t know about our finances, and that’s what is causing so many issues.”

At the end of the day, Williamson thinks: “Hiding financial situations is rarely going to get you out of it,” and keeping secrets from your partner is only going to damage the relationship.

How to have that conversation with a partner

If you decide to have the money conversation with your partner, Williamson recommends planning ahead: “If someone feels like a rabbit caught in the headlights, it’s never going to go down well. Speak to your partner and say, ‘Look, it’s not sexy, but we need to sit down and discuss our financial situation’.”

Ian West/PA

Williamson is a fan of what she calls “marriage or relationship meetings”, where you choose a time once a week or month to talk about your finances. “Sit down together around the table, keep it formal and keep all the distractions away, and discuss your finances,” she says.

If it’s your first time talking about money as a couple, Williamson says: “I would get an idea about someone’s lifestyle and what they value in life. Do they value going on holiday lots, or do they have a carefree attitude to money? Try and ascertain what their lifestyle is about – are they a saver, or are they a spender.” This way, you can work out how your financial values and goals are aligned, and how best to move forward as a couple.

How to deal with money in a relationship

The most common problem Williamson found on the show was having a couple where one is a spender and the other a saver. Her advice is to “understand what drives that person to save, or what drives that person to spend,” she says. Having different financial perspectives can cause conflict in a relationship, and to move past this, you both need to be really open about your situation. This makes it easier for you to work out a compromise which suits both parties.

There might also come to a point in a relationship when you consider joining finances. Williamson admits the best approach differs from couple to couple, but she says: “I’m a big fan of having a joint account, but I’m also a fan of having an individual account at the same time, and being able to manage your own finances.”

This means you can retain financial independence and control, but Williamson adds: “A relationship is a team, and that team should have a joint financial account that they both have access to and they’re both transparent with. I think having a joint account within a relationship can really help build trust and stability, because there’s nowhere to hide. It can be a healthy way to learn about each other’s spending habits. You gain respect and trust, because it’s not just your money – you have to consider somebody else at the same time.”

Save Well Spend Better is on Channel 4 on Mondays

Looking to get on top of your finances over the festive season? Read the Wise Living guide to saving money at Christmas.



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