30 September 2020

Arguing over money? Here's what to do

You want to buy a flashy new motorhome or splash out on a holiday for the whole family, but they want the money kept aside for a rainy day. If this is sounding familiar, then you’re not alone.

Money worries are causing one in five of us to have relationship problems with our partners, close friends, or family members, a new study from the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) has found.

Fortunately, such worries are less likely to impact older people, with only 14 percent of those aged 55-65 experiencing arguments over finances, and seven percent of those aged 65 plus. This compares to 24 percent of people in the 18-34 age group and 21 percent of 35-54 year-olds.

The findings come from the CFFC Financial Capability Barometer Survey, which surveyed more than 3,000 New Zealanders monthly through 2020. It showed conflict over money correlated with a lack of long-term financial planning, a preference to spend rather than save, and a reluctance to discuss money. 

Having a high income was no defense against financial conflict, with 21 percent of those earning $150,000 to $200,000 a year reporting relationship stress due to finances. However, those with little or no income (under $10,000 a year) were most likely to feel the effects, with 28 percent affected.

Financial stress was also more likely to affect people with children aged 0-4 years (27 percent), Māori (27 percent), Pacific Peoples (28 percent) and those renting (25 percent).

The CFFC released this data for the recent Mental Health Awareness Week (21-27 September). CFFC Personal Finance Lead, Tom Hartmann, noted the recognised link between financial stress and mental health issues and encouraged people to use its tools and guides to help people get on the ‘same page’ financially. 

“Good relationships with partners, family and friends support good mental health and resilience, but as opposites often attract in relationships, partners will have different attitudes and habits when it comes to money,” says Hartmann.

“No two people will ever have the same experiences or earn the same amount; this can put strain on any relationship.”

Hartmann says Sorted encourages partners and families to open up and talk about money, but to do so carefully. 

“It can be frustrating to try to get on the same page, since one side may feel nagged while the other feels under attack. Sorted has tips for how to have a successful money conversation and set some shared goals.”


Sorted offers these additional tips for minimising potential conflict over money.

  • Avoid the blame game. First find some common ground and design a basic budget for those things you agree on, then build from there. 
  • Be honest. There’s no point hiding things like debt – come clean and get it all over in one conversation. You’ll be glad you did.
  • If your partner is controlling your money, running up debts in your name, or stopping you from being financially independent or earning your own money, that’s abusive. Make sure to get the help you need in this situation.


Experiencing financial stress? Here’s where to go for help:

Financial stress is more likely to affect people with children aged 0-4.

Financial stress is more likely to affect people with children aged 0-4.