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It’s no secret that money is one of the leading causes of relationship friction, breakups and divorce. But if you think money problems are unique to the families who don’t have enough of it to go around, think again.
Financial planners who serve rich couples find that they fight about money just like those of modest means. GOBankingRates spoke with two financial advisors serving wealthy clients who have amassed generational wealth — and they argue about money as frequently and intensely as the average family living check to check and struggling to pay the bills.
One conflict causes more strain than any other.
Here’s the dollar-based dispute that’s most likely to drive a wedge between couples who have so much money that you might think they have nothing to fight about.
The No. 1 Argument Is Spending vs. Saving
Jake Claver is the financial director of Digital Ascension Group, which provides family office services, including estate planning, deal sourcing and due diligence, philanthropy, charity and foundation planning, enterprise mapping and digital asset strategies.
Only the wealthiest households have the means and need to retain these ultra-high-end teams of dedicated financial professionals — Asena Family Office says the minimum net worth is typically $50 million.
No one with that kind of money could have money problems, right?
As it turns out, the richest of the rich couples fight about household finances, same as everyone else — and those fights often center around the same things average earners quarrel about.
“The No. 1 argument I witness among wealthy couples pertains to the dynamics of spending versus saving,” Claver said. “Often, one partner may prioritize accumulating wealth and investments, while the other may advocate for enjoying the present by spending on luxuries, travel or experiences. This tug of war arises because, despite having ample resources, they have different visions for their wealth.”
Tim Smith had a 38-year career as a financial planner before founding Aurora Private Wealth. His firm is a boutique financial services platform that serves more than 100 financial advisors nationwide, with a focus on helping affluent families manage generational wealth. He’s also the founder of The Financial Dad, a company that provides financial literacy education for high schools, colleges and young adults.
“I’ve been working with wealthy families and seeing firsthand their challenges since the 1980s,” he said. “What I’ve found is that this is usually a problem of spend vs. save. You have one partner who often wants to save more money and the other partner who wants to spend more money, leading to disagreements about money allocation.”
In Claver’s experience, financial arguments are usually a symptom of friction between couples, not the underlying cause.
“This conflict isn’t just about money,” he said. “It’s deeply rooted in varying perspectives on life’s purpose, the value of money, and the legacy they wish to leave behind.”
This has been Smith’s experience, as well.
“This is such a common sticking point that often relates to beliefs, financial education, upbringing and many more factors,” he said.
While people tend to assume that greater resources will reduce financial friction, the “more money, more problems” cliche is a reality-based maxim.
“While it’s easy to think the affluent are immune to such challenges,” Claver said, “their wealth can amplify these differences, making them more pronounced.”
Financial planners are not couples’ counselors, but when their wealthiest clients reach an impasse over a money issue, they often have to play that role.
“To bridge this gap, I initiate conversations to uncover their deeper values, aspirations and fears,” Claver said. “By fostering open dialogue and utilizing tools like joint financial goal setting, we’re able to strike a balance that resonates with both partners. Ensuring that each partner feels heard and understood is the cornerstone to resolving these disputes.”
Smith takes a similar approach when working to mend these delicate, emotional and private conflicts.
“As a financial planner, one thing we can help our clients with is to analyze spending habits and identify financial goals,” he said. “From there, we can show the couple the impact that spending has on their goals and then counsel them on what they can afford to do or not afford to do within their goals. Numbers don’t lie when it comes to finances and it usually helps a couple get on the same page with spending vs. saving.”
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