Who holds the purse strings in your home?

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2013

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Money makes the world go round, but it can also make for an unhappy home - a cause of couple's conflicts.

And experts say it doesn't matter how much you have - wealthy couples are just as likely to fight over money as those with less of the folding stuff.

A survey in conjunction with Fairfax Media and Westpac's Women of Influence awards asked 1000 of the bank's customers who controlled household purse strings.

It found women held equal influence to men on big-purchase decisions, and slightly more on managing day-to-day finances.

That doesn't surprise financial expert Janine Starks, co-managing director of Liontamer Investments.

She said when children entered the equation, the partner who stayed at home - often the woman - would take the lead with money.

"They become a mini-expert at all sorts of day-to-day financial issues. As you start to become the family money expert, with up-to-date information at your fingertips, there is more chance that some women will be a little more influential in the partnership."

Starks said it was a change from "our nana's time", when men made more of the big decisions and women were given weekly housekeeping money. She said different life stages brought different financial challenges.

"Younger couples will [argue over] loans, hire purchases, mortgage sizes, whether its acceptable to put a mortgage on hold, or top up a mortgage to buy a car. Those with children will battle over the benefit of paying off mortgages early, versus having annual family holidays and ensuring their children have great experiences.

"Those in the asset accumulation phase pre-retirement will differ on how much risk they are prepared to take with investments, and retirees will beg to differ over downsizing the house and eating their capital, rather than leaving it to the kids."

But, she said, every couple will have "chats over who spends the most on clothes, boy's toys and coffee".

Starks said conflict often only arose when one partner had to compromise.

"We all make silly decisions now and then, but when it's ongoing over long periods of time, your money morals are probably not well matched."

Auckland relationship counsellor Steven Dromgool said no matter how much money was involved, it still seemed to cause conflict.

"I've had millionaires who would fight about money and students who didn't fight about money. It often tends to be more the meaning that is attached to money. For some people money represents security."

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- Fairfax Media

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