One can buy almost anything with money – but, as the Beatles observed, it can’t buy love. Which might lead to the erroneous perception that the two topics are wholly unrelated, but the numbers tell a different story. Among reasons for divorce, finances ranks as the No. 5 reason and is cited in a little over a third of all cases, according to a study by the NCBI. And even when finances don't lead to divorce, it remains a leading source of marital strife.
According to some figures, about one-third of married couples reported arguing about money at least once a month. Those fights were over retirement savings 18 percent of the time, having enough money to pay bills 14 percent of the time and how to pay off debt about 12 percent of the time.
But as important as money is to relationships, and as often as it causes marital strife and even breakups, it is not an area couples often like to tackle head-on. According to data from TD Ameritrade, the average couple talks about money less than twice a month, and fights about it about five times a year.
Transparency is one theme: 40 percent of participants in the study noted they do not fully trust their partner to manage their combined finances. More than a third said they were mostly unaware of their partner’s debts. And a little over 20 percent reported they sometimes hide their spending from their significant others. Around 43 percent of couples noted they do not follow a budget.
The problem, as Honeydue Founder Eugene Park noted is that it’s hard for couples to know where to start with the money conversation, or when to start having it. A first date is probably not an ideal time to have one’s financial portfolio printed out and ready for review, he noted – there’s such a thing as being too transparent.
But there are currently 32 million millennials living with a partner, he pointed out – well beyond the “getting to know you” period – who should be working on building better financial habits in tandem, but who often find it difficult to get started.
Honeydue can’t make the conversation itself any easier, but the app can offer a way to give couples the tools they need to first see and understand their budget jointly, and then to collaborate on their shared financial goals. There is no shortage of budgeting tools, he noted, but there is a lack of tools that make it easy for couples to coordinate on building a joint budget, sharing their account balances and updating each other on spending. The app also allows couples to comment on individual transactions and manage things like bill pay reminders.
Park noted that the Honeydue app also offers customization tools for couples that want to manage some of their financial lives separately. Customers can choose which accounts they want to share, and whether they want to share transactions or only balances, as different couples want different levels of transparency.
“Basically, what we have seen is couples want to plan jointly, want to have broad visibility into where they are financially, but maybe don’t want to debate or review every single purchase they make in a day,” he said. In general, Park noted, couples share around 60 percent of their accounts on some level, and keep 40 percent private.
Honeydue is a free service in that customers are asked to pay what they think is fair, with $0 as one of the options. The firm does not sell consumer data, but does plan to leverage data in the future to offer monetized products.
“Essentially, we want to help guide our users to better financial products and services that we think will save them money,” Park said. “Consumer data will be critical to tailoring those offers, but that data will never go directly to a third-party provider in anything but a generalized, aggregated form.”
But the bigger goal is still recruitment, and getting more couples to use the platform to better manage their financial lives together.
“This is about tools, but more importantly, it’s about helping customers get on the same page,” he noted. “Our founding idea was that if you and your partner aren’t on the same page about spending or savings or your financial future, all the tools in the world won’t matter.”