Financial matters are the most common source of disagreement among American couples, prompting an average of three arguments per month, according to a survey conducted for the American Institute of CPAs by Harris Interactive.

More than a quarter, or 27 percent, of those who are married or living with a partner said disagreements over money are most likely to prompt a spat. That made it the most volatile topic, ahead of arguments about children, chores, work or friends. Financial arguments are usually over differing opinions of “needs” versus “wants,” with 58 percent of those who argue about money identifying this issue as the most common cause. Approximately half the survey respondents, 49 percent, most often argue about unexpected expenses and a third, 32 percent, argue about insufficient savings. 

Much of the relationship conflict can be traced to a failure to communicate about finances, according to the survey. More than half of adults, 55 percent, who are married or living with a partner said they do not set aside time on a regular basis to talk about financial issues.

“Money is a lightning rod for conflict in relationships because it’s a sensitive topic and each person brings a different perspective based on their past experiences,” said Jordan Amin, chair of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “It’s critical for couples to communicate openly and regularly about financial matters in order to establish a common language around money and move toward shared goals.”

Three in 10 adults who are married or living with a partner have engaged in at least one potentially deceitful behavior related to their finances, according to the survey. The most common such behaviors include hiding purchases and making major purchases without consulting their significant other.

Among married adults, 36 percent of those aged 55 to 64 say financial matters cause arguments, which is notably higher than the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds, 15 percent, or seniors, 20 percent, who say the same.

The average number of arguments prompted by financial matters rises with age. While among all married adults the average number of disagreement is three per month, among those aged 45 to 54, the average number of arguments rises to four per month.

More than half of those whose financial status has declined in the past year, 53 percent, report that financial matters are most likely to prompt arguments with their spouse.

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