15 reasons why families fight over money

Why families fight over money

It’s not uncommon for families to gather around the dinner table, and share laughter, love, and food, only for the conversation to take a sharp turn when the topic shifts to the subject of money.

Tempers begin to flare, voices raise, and emotions reach a boiling point. In some households, it may be more volatile than discussing politics or religion.

Money – the very thing that is supposed to bring security, comfort, and joy – can often become the root cause of discord within families. But why does this inanimate object, with its promises of happiness and fulfillment, sabotage the relationships we hold dear to our hearts?

In this blog post, we will delve into 15 reasons why families fight over money, dissecting the root causes and exploring the psychology behind these financial feuds.

By understanding why these squabbles occur, we hope to equip you with the tools and knowledge to prevent your family from falling into the same money trap.

So, grab a seat, settle in, and let’s embark on this journey together to uncover the secrets and learn how to navigate the turbulent waters of family finance.

Reasons Why Families Fight Over Money

1. Different money management styles and priorities

One of the most common reasons families fight over money is the varying money management styles and priorities among family members. These differences can often be traced back to individual upbringing, financial experiences, and personal preferences.

For example, some family members may be more frugal or conservative with their spending, while others are more inclined to make significant purchases or take financial risks.

This can create tension and disagreements within the family, particularly when major decisions involving family finances need to be made collectively.

Moreover, priorities among family members can vary significantly, with some placing more importance on long-term financial security, while others on immediate and short-term needs.

Disagreements can arise when these varied priorities collide, and family members fail to find a middle ground that accommodates everyone’s preferences.

It’s essential for families to have open and honest discussions about their financial goals, priorities, and management styles to minimize conflicts and promote understanding among all members.

Acknowledging and respecting these differences can pave the way for a more harmonious family relationship and prevent unnecessary financial disputes.

2. Unequal distribution of financial responsibilities

The unequal distribution of financial responsibilities often leads to disputes amongst families, further complicating a situation where emotions are already heightened.

According to Ameriprise Financial’s Family Wealth Checkup report, 68% of sibling money fights occur due to concerns related to parents, with issues such as financial support and inheritance among siblings being common reasons for quarrels.

These disagreements are mainly due to a lack of communication about financial decisions within the family. The survey also found that two-thirds of siblings do discuss financial matters, but arguments arise when the distribution of financial assistance between family members appears unequal or unclear.

To avoid these disputes, it is essential for families to engage in intergenerational money discussions and maintain transparency regarding financial support or inheritance. Clarifying the intent behind any unequal distribution of assets can help ensure harmony within the family and prevent future conflicts.

Parents should also consider including a letter of intent alongside their will to explain the rationale behind dividing their estate in a particular manner.

3. Disagreements over financial decisions

Disagreements over financial decisions can be a significant source of conflict within families, often leading to tension, resentment, and even lasting rifts.

This may arise due to several reasons, all of which can stem from a lack of communication and understanding of each other’s needs, priorities, and values.

Firstly, family members may have different financial goals, risk tolerance, or investment strategies. For example, some people may prioritize saving for retirement, while others may focus on paying off debt or funding their children’s education. Similarly, some family members may be conservative with their investments, while others may be more aggressive.

Secondly, financial decision-making can often be shaped by individual personality traits or upbringing. For example, people raised in frugal households may have difficulty understanding or empathizing with the financial priorities of those who grew up in more extravagant environments.

Thirdly, family members may hold differing opinions about what is considered essential, such as which vacation to go on, how much to invest in home renovations, or whether to buy a new car. Disagreements about how to use or allocate family resources can lead to stress and frustration.

Additionally, the pressure to conform to societal norms or keep up with the Joneses can exacerbate disagreements within families, leading to further resentment or regret over financial decisions.

In summary, disagreements over financial decisions within families can be complex and often rooted in deeper values and priorities. Open communication, understanding, and compromise are essential in navigating these challenges and maintaining harmonious family relationships.

4. Inheritance and estate planning issues

Inheritance and estate planning can often ignite family conflicts and rivalries, leading to strained relationships and legal battles. A few factors behind these disputes may include poorly executed estate plans, miscommunication among family members, or unaddressed family issues.

One common issue is the lack of a clear will, leading to confusion and potential disputes as the court decides on the distribution of assets.

To avoid such conflicts, it is crucial to have a well-drafted will that clearly outlines the distribution of assets, taking into consideration fairness and the specific needs of each beneficiary.

Another factor contributing to family conflicts over inheritance is the unequal division of assets. While it may be necessary to distribute assets unequally based on various factors, it is essential to communicate the reasons behind these decisions with family members and beneficiaries.

Open communication can help minimize potential disputes and promote a better understanding of the estate planning process. Furthermore, consulting an estate planning attorney can ensure that the estate plan is thorough and enforceable, reducing the likelihood of disputes and fostering harmony within the family.

Preemptive action and transparent communication are key in addressing inheritance and estate planning issues, ensuring the protection of relationships and assets alike.

5. Financial secrets or lies

Financial secrets or lies can be another major reason why families fight over money. When family members are not honest and open about their financial situation, it can result in resentment, mistrust, and arguments.

For instance, when a spouse hides their debt or spending habits, it can lead to a significant strain on the relationship. Similarly, parents who are not transparent about their estate plans or financial support for their children may create discord among siblings.

Another common dispute arises when family members fail to honor financial agreements or misuse funds that have been entrusted to them.

For example, a family member who has been given the responsibility of managing an aging parent’s finances might be accused by others of mishandling the money or taking advantage of the situation for personal gain.

In these scenarios, it is crucial for families to regularly engage in open and honest discussions about their financial situation and expectations.

By being transparent with each other and ensuring all parties have a clear understanding of their financial responsibilities, families have a better chance of maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding money-related conflicts.

6. Communication breakdowns about money matters

Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship, and when it comes to discussing money matters within a family, proper communication is essential. However, when communication breaks down, conflict may arise.

This can occur for a variety of reasons, such as misunderstandings, withholding information, or a lack of trust between family members. One root cause can be the unwillingness of certain family members to be transparent about financial matters due to fear of judgment, shame, or criticism.

As a result, decisions surrounding money may be made without proper consultation or input from other family members, which can lead to disagreements and resentment.

Furthermore, when these communication breakdowns occur during critical moments in a family’s life, such as the passing of a loved one and the distribution of inheritance, emotions run high, and existing tensions can escalate rapidly.

It is crucial for families to maintain open lines of communication and to cultivate an environment where concerns and expectations regarding finances can be freely discussed without fear of reprisal or embarrassment.

Addressing these issues head-on can prevent conflicts from escalating and help families to maintain both their financial security and their most valued asset — their unity.

7. Cultural differences and expectations

Cultural differences and expectations can play a significant role in family conflicts, particularly when it comes to matters of inheritance and finance.

These differences can stem from various sources, such as ethnicity, religion, or even regional beliefs and customs. Members of a family with diverse backgrounds may have different ideas about how money should be allocated, spent, or saved, which can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements.

In some cultures, specific assets might hold more value or sentimental importance than in others, causing disputes over the distribution of these items. Additionally, customs around decision-making within a family might differ, leading to further conflicts about who should have the final say on financial matters.

In certain cultural contexts, individuals might also be subject to family or societal pressure to adhere to traditional roles or expectations that are in contrast to their personal beliefs or desires.

Ultimately, it’s essential for families to recognize and respect one another’s cultural backgrounds and to communicate openly and honestly about their expectations surrounding finances and inheritance.

Approaching these topics with empathy and understanding can go a long way in preventing family feuds and fostering stronger family bonds.

However, if conflicts become too challenging to manage on their own, families should consider seeking professional help from a mediator or counselor, who can help facilitate a resolution that respects everyone’s cultural perspectives and needs.

8. Envy or jealousy of financial success

Family members may sometimes find themselves envious or jealous of each other’s financial success. This is a common issue that arises when one sibling or relative achieves a higher level of wealth or success than the others.

Envy and jealousy can manifest in various ways, such as negative comments, gossip, or even sabotaging the successful individual’s efforts.

It’s important to understand that these emotions are a natural reaction to perceiving inequity between family members. People often compare their own lives to those of their siblings or relatives who were raised in similar circumstances, which can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and envy when there’s a significant difference in their achievements or financial status.

Addressing these emotions may be challenging, but seeking professional help from a financial therapist can be an effective way to explore and overcome them.

Discussing these issues openly and honestly within the family unit, focusing on shared commonalities rather than differences, and working together to create a supportive environment can also help alleviate envy and jealousy related to financial success.

Ultimately, it’s essential for family members to remember that each individual’s path to success is unique, and comparing oneself to others is not always productive or helpful.

Childhood experiences have a significant impact on one’s financial well-being and attitudes toward money in adulthood.

Traumatic events or adverse experiences during childhood can lead to financial insecurity and stress in later life, as revealed by a study conducted by Harter and Harter (2022). These experiences often result in toxic levels of stress, affecting not only physical and mental health but also financial stability.

In many cases, individuals who have faced childhood trauma may struggle with managing finances, resulting in lower levels of food and housing security. These issues can stem from various factors such as lack of proper education regarding financial management, limited access to resources, or difficulty in trusting others with money matters.

This connection highlights the importance of addressing childhood traumas and developing resilience by encouraging collaboration between educators, therapists, social workers, and other professionals.

Understanding the link between adverse childhood experiences and financial insecurity is crucial in developing effective policies and strategies to prevent or mitigate the impact of such traumas on a person’s financial well-being.

By focusing on these underlying issues, policymakers and professionals can work collaboratively toward improving financial literacy and promoting financial well-being among individuals who have experienced childhood trauma, ensuring a more secure and stable future.

10. Addiction or gambling issues

One major reason why families often have conflicts is due to addiction or gambling issues that one or more family members might be facing. Addiction, whether it is related to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, has severe consequences not only for the addicted individual but also for their family members.

In many cases, addiction can lead to financial hardships, as the person dealing with the addiction may be spending significant amounts of money to fuel their habit. This, in turn, can cause stress and tension among family members, who might have to bear the burden of financial losses.

Additionally, gambling and addiction issues can strain family relationships, as trust and communication can be severely compromised. When a loved one is struggling with addiction, family members often feel powerless, frustrated, and overwhelmed. This results in frequent disagreements and fights within the family unit, damaging the bond shared by the members.

To combat addiction and gambling-related issues, it is essential for families to seek help from professionals and support groups, and work together to create a healthy and nurturing environment for the affected individual.

Addressing the problem as a family can not only lead to a better understanding of the issue at hand but also help strengthen the relationships among its members.

11. Power struggles within the family

In many families, power struggles are a common source of conflict, leading to disagreements and fights over money and other assets. These struggles often stem from various factors, such as sibling rivalry, differing expectations, and unresolved issues from the past.

Often, family members seek to assert their authority or dominance by attempting to control or manipulate the distribution of financial resources, particularly during times of transition or upheaval, such as during the settlement of an estate.

Such power struggles can be intensified by the emotional connections and perceived levels of approval or validation that come with being the primary beneficiary or decision-maker within a family.

In some instances, family members may feel threatened or excluded by the involvement of non-family members, such as spouses or in-laws, in financial discussions. Additionally, underlying mental health or personality disorders can exacerbate tensions and make it difficult for families to reach amicable resolutions.

It’s crucial for families to address these power dynamics openly and honestly, and seek the help of professional counselors or mediators if necessary, in order to preserve the most valuable asset in any family – the relationships between its members.

Through effective communication and understanding, families can work together to prevent conflicts from escalating and causing lasting damage to their bonds.

12. Generational conflicts over values and beliefs

Generational conflicts over values and beliefs can often lead to tension and disagreements within families, particularly when it comes to money and inheritance.

Each generation has distinct priorities, values, and beliefs shaped by their unique experiences, social norms, economic conditions, and cultural exposures. Often, older generations may view wealth as a symbol of success and stability, with an emphasis on saving and investing for the future.

Conversely, younger generations may place a higher value on experiences and personal fulfillment, prioritizing spending on travel, education, or philanthropy. Misaligned financial priorities can create rifts between family members, resulting in disputes and misunderstandings.

It’s also common for older family members to impart their values to the younger generation, inadvertently causing resentment and resistance.

Open communication, empathy, and understanding can help bridge the divide between generations, fostering cooperation and harmony in money matters to preserve valuable family bonds.

13. Lack of financial education and literacy

One of the major reasons why families fight over money is the lack of financial education and literacy. Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and understanding of various financial concepts and tools, such as budgeting, saving, investing, and managing debt.

Unfortunately, many people are not equipped with this crucial skill, leading to poor financial decisions that can create tension within the family.

According to a report from the National Financial Educators Council, approximately 66% of Americans are considered financially illiterate. This alarming statistic not only hinders individual financial growth but also contributes to family conflicts. In financially uneducated households, members may struggle to understand and navigate financial matters, often leading to stress, resentment, and misunderstandings.

To prevent such conflicts, it’s essential for families to prioritize financial education and ensure all members have a solid grasp of money management concepts. This can be achieved through reading books, attending seminars, or seeking guidance from financial professionals.

With improved financial literacy, families can make sound financial decisions, effectively communicate about money matters, and significantly reduce financial quarrels.

14. External factors such as economic downturns or unexpected expenses

Economic downturns and unexpected expenses can significantly impact a family’s financial stability, leading to stress and disagreements over money management. In times of economic uncertainty, job losses or reduced income can make it difficult for families to meet their financial obligations, such as paying bills or covering essential living expenses.

This may cause members to feel helpless and anxious, fueling tension and arguments in the household.

Similarly, unforeseen expenses, such as medical emergencies, home repairs, or sudden increases in utility costs, can strain a family’s budget, forcing them to make tough decisions about how to allocate their limited resources. In such situations, differing opinions about priorities and spending habits may come to light, causing conflicts among the family members.

It is essential for families to openly communicate and work together in addressing these external financial challenges. By maintaining a supportive environment, they can better navigate these difficult times and arrive at mutually beneficial solutions to overcome the financial stress caused by economic downturns or unexpected expenses.

It is not uncommon for families to have conflicts over money. Often, these disagreements are not only about the financial issue at hand but also about deeper psychological or emotional challenges related to self-worth and identity.

Growing up in a society where one’s financial status carries considerable weight, people may unconsciously tie their sense of self-worth to their financial success. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or resentment among family members, especially when there is a discrepancy in income or wealth.

Disputes over money can also trigger unresolved emotional issues from childhood, such as favoritism or feelings of being loved or valued less than a sibling. This can create a desire to “keep score” through material possessions and financial success, which only exacerbates the tension.

To resolve or mitigate these conflicts, families may benefit from identifying the deeper emotional issues at play and seeking professional guidance to address them.

By understanding and addressing the psychological root of the problem, families can learn to communicate more effectively and navigate their financial disagreements with greater empathy and understanding.


Families fight over money for a variety of reasons. It could be due to differences in financial priorities, unequal distribution of wealth, or simply a lack of communication and understanding. Whatever the cause may be, it’s important for families to work towards finding common ground and resolving any conflicts that arise. This can involve seeking professional help or simply committing to open and honest conversations about money matters. By addressing these issues head-on, families can build stronger relationships and create a more stable financial future for themselves and their loved ones. Remember, money doesn’t have to be a source of tension – it can also be an opportunity for growth and collaboration.


I have a Business Studies degree and have specialized in financial accounting. I also have an MBA. Furthermore, I am currently a Ph.D. candidate at Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University in the field of management and organization. I have an interest in management, entrepreneurship, organization, and finance.

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