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Healthy Relationships and Financial Stability - Project Page

Prepared for:Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)



Financial decisions, behaviors, and practices take place within a social and family context.  Financial stability strongly interacts with family relationships.  Recent changes in the housing and credit markets have led to increased recognition that developing comprehensive family-based money and credit strategies is critical in the short-term to weather financial storms, but also for the long-term financial health of families and their children.  Each area can strengthen or challenge the other, however.

Financial hardship and instability can foster conflict and seriously impact the stability of a couples relationship as well as their finances, especially when there are no rainy-day funds and little knowledge of where to turn for help.  On the other hand, strong relationships and familial support can act as a buffer during financial hardship.  Over the past decade a range of federal and local efforts have emerged that are dedicated to strengthening families and marriage, building financial literacy skills, and helping low-income families develop assets.

In 2006, ASPE contracted with RTI International to convene a Roundtable meeting of a diverse group of experts with research, policy, and practice experience in marriage education, financial literacy, and/or asset development.  The meeting provided an opportunity to exchange knowledge and explore collaboration across the fields.  A summary of the proceedings is available below.

The Roundtable also led to the development of two issue briefs designed to introduce the fields to each other, explore how these issues interact in the lives of families, and begin to explore opportunities for collaboration.  The briefs focus on romantic couple relationships and marriage; however, sharing financial resources can also bring benefits and challenges for co-parents, extended families, and even between parents and children.  The briefs are available below.

Project publications:

  • Marriage Education, Financial Literacy, and Asset Development Roundtable Meeting Summary, July 2008 This report summarizes a Roundtable Meeting convened by ASPE in February 2008.  The Roundtable brought together researchers and practitioners from the marriage education, financial literacy, and asset development fields to begin a dialogue on the relationship between healthy marriages and financial practices.  Discussion centered on how to improve programmatic efforts and encourage collaboration between the fields to address long-term family and economic stability.  Research needs and collaborative opportunities were also explored.
  • Foundations for Strong Families 101: Healthy Relationships and Financial Stability, January 2009 This brief provides an overview of existing programs and practices.  It highlights opportunities for collaboration between the marriage and family-strengthening initiatives and the financial literacy and asset-building initiatives, and concludes with lessons for building the foundations of family and financial stability.
  • Foundations for Strong Families 201: Healthy Relationships and Financial Stability, January 2009 This brief explores how communication, marriage and divorce, money management, credit and debt, children and child support, and other issues affect and/or are affected by familial and financial well-being.  Also, it offers tips for practitioners working with couples to build intimacy and stable relationships with each other and with their finances.

Related Resources

"Relationship Finance Summit - Theory and Practice" [webcast of the meeting] Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Designed to advance developments in the field of relationship finance, this unique conference offers theory and practice advancing family financial education. The first session features speakers presenting theory behind decision making models/dynamics within couples with respect to money decisions. The second session offers perspectives from counseling and financial service practitioners. Topics range from the dynamics of intergender differences to real estate purchases to military financial counseling perspectives. The webcast is at scroll down the page.