Tips for Service Providers: Healthy Financial
By: Victor W. Harris, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Family, Youth, and
Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida
Healthy financial management skills can be
strong predictors of happy relationships.
Couples who communicate effectively about
finances, have little or no debt (or who are
actively working toward paying off their debt),
and live within their means tend to be more
stable and satisfied in their marriages, while
those who struggle with financial issues often
have increased stress and tension in their
relationships.1 In addition, higher income and
asset levels are generally associated with
higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Marital
status and education levels affect income, as
married couples tend to have higher income
levels than non-married couples and research
shows strong relationships between higher
education and increased earnings.2
Service providers should understand why
finances are important to relationships and how
they can help couples develop financial
management skills. Visit www.HealthyMarriage
look under Asset Building to access free tip
sheets and Federal resources that can help
your clients develop their financial management
Individuals and couples need to
develop healthy financial management
skills in these areas: earning,
spending, saving, borrowing, and
protecting against risk.3
When the members of a couple want to spend
their money in different ways it can lead to
disagreements and conflict.4
Identify money habitudes. When individuals
have a good understanding of their partners’
habits and attitudes, or “habitudes,” towards
money, they are more likely to have discussions
and negotiate conflicts in healthy ways. Using
resources such as Syble Solomon’s Money
Habitudes products can be a constructive way
to help couples discuss money and learn more
about each other.5
Prioritize spending and live within their
means. Healthy couples do this by spending
less than what is earned while prioritizing needs
(what is necessary) versus wants (what is
Ask tough questions and set SMART goals.
Encourage your clients to ask questions such
as, “What would our lives be like if our finances
were in order?” As part of this discussion,
encourage them to set and implement specific,
measureable, achievable, relevant, and time-
based (or SMART) financial goals.
Tips for Service Providers: Healthy Financial Management Skills
Track and reduce expenses while following
a budget. Clients can track expenses by first
carefully identifying all expenses. They should
then work to reduce their debt by making
strategic payments and getting rid of
Borrowing and Using Credit
Consumer debt and financial problems are
robust predictors of divorce because an
increase in these issues often causes
Avoid debt and
wisely. Urge clients
to stop adding to
debt, pay extra
possible, and avoid
payday loans. You
can help clients
understand how to
use credit cards wisely, in ways including
protecting against fraud, using the period before
interest accrues, and building credit without
paying interest. However, you should also make
sure they understand that the costs of using
credit cards include paying interest, late fees,
transfer fees, over-the-limit fees, annual fees,
and cash advance fees.
Build good credit. Explain the importance of
paying bills on time in order to build a credit
history with a good credit score. Teach your
clients about credit. For instance, explain that
an average credit score is around 675; a good
credit score is around 720 or higher.
Protecting Against Risk
Explain the benefits of using mainstream
financial institutions. All couples and families
are potentially at risk due to issues such as a
lack of insurance or emergency funds or
becoming victims of fraud and identity theft.
Get banked. Encourage clients to use checking
and savings accounts for financial transactions
and avoid high-cost sources of credit like
payday lenders and pawn shops. Introduce the
idea of using a safety
deposit box for
important papers as
one way of
to use banks.
is a major predictor of
Couples should be
informed about the
benefits of securing adequate health, auto,
homeowner, and life insurance.
Have an emergency fund. Explain the
importance of developing an emergency fund
for both small and large unexpected expenses.
For example, you can work with clients to set
up a system for saving a portion of each
paycheck, where possible, to put toward an
Strong Families: Tips for Healthy
A companion tip sheet is available to
share with families interested in
learning about healthy financial
Tips for Service Providers: Healthy Financial Management Skills
1 Dew, J. (2007). Two sides of the same coin? The
differing roles of assets and consumer debt in
marriage. Journal of Family and Economic Issues,
Dew, J. (2009). The gendered meaning of assets for
divorce. Journal of Family and Economic Issues,
Skogrand, L., Johnson, A. C., Hendricks, A.M., & Defrain,
J. (2011). Financial management practices of
couples with great marriages. Journal of Family
and Economic Issues, 32, 27-35.
2 Dyk, P. H. (2004). Complexity of family life among low-
income and working poor: Introduction to the
special issue. Family Relations, 53(2), 122-126.
Harris, V. W., Schramm, D. G., Marshall, J. P., & Lee, T.
R. (2012). Marital quality, context, and interaction:
A comparison of those currently receiving
government assistance with those who are not.
Marriage & Family Review, 48(4), 386-414.
3 Leonhardt, D. (2014). The upshot: Is college worth it?
Clearly, new data say. The New York Times.
4 Council for Economic Education. (2013). National
standards for financial literacy. New York, NY:
Council for Economic Education.
Financial Literacy & Education Commission. (2010,
August 26). Financial education core
competencies. Federal Register, 75(165), 52596-
52597. Retrieved from
5 Visit http://www.moneyhabitudes.com/ to learn more.
6 Dew, J., Britt, S., & Huston, S. (2012). Examining the
relationship between financial issues and divorce.
Family Relations, 61, 615-628.
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This product was produced by ICF International with funding provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services,
Administration for Children and Families, Grant: 90FH0002. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Services,
Administration for Children and Families.