How Couples Can Manage Their Finances Together

This week, Maggie is chatting with Katherine Salisbury, co-founder and co-CEO of Qapital. In this episode, they talk about how couples can manage their finances together. If you and your partner are struggling to manage your money together, this episode is for you.

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Co-Founders and Co-CEOs Katherine Salisbury and George Friedman had a growing family, and growing money stress. Keeping track of their finances from a traditional joint account proved impossible.

They needed a joint overview of all their finances, and they wanted to automate how their money moved to savings, investments, bills and spending accounts – but neither was possible with their bank setup. The idea for Qapital was born.

World-renowned behavioral economist Professor Dan Ariely joined soon after, and the team started building a suite of smart money tools that put people’s goals back at the heart of the way they bank. Today, Qapital combines behavioral science and the power of automation to help individuals and couples find money happiness and reach their life goals.

To learn more about Maggie and her coaching and speaking services, visit

The theme music is called Escaping Light by Aaron Sprinkle. The podcast artwork design is by Maggie’s dear husband, Dan Rader.


Maggie Germano 0:05
Hi, and thanks for listening to the money circle podcast. I’m your host, Maggie Germano, and I’m a feminist and a financial writer, speaker, educator and coach for women. I’m passionate about making personal finance less scary and more approachable so that women can improve their relationship with money and take control of their finances. Every other week, I will interview an amazing, inspiring woman to talk about the issues that impact our money, our health, our independence, and more. We will touch on the societal and structural issues that we need to work together to change and the actions that we each have the power to take in our own lives. If you’d like to learn more about me and the work that I do, visit my website at or follow me on Instagram @MaggieGermano. Thanks again for listening and I hope you enjoy.

Maggie Germano 0:55
Hey there, and thanks for listening. I’m your host Maggie Germano. And this week, I’m chatting with Katherine Salisbury, Co Founder and CO CEO of Qapital, the award winning budget planning app perfect for individuals and couples. In this episode, we talk about how couples can manage their finances together. If you and your partner are struggling to manage your finances together and struggling to set goals together. This episode is for you. Enjoy.

Maggie Germano 1:31
Hey, Welcome, Katherine. Thanks so much for being here today.

Katherine Salisbury 1:34
Thanks for having me,

Maggie Germano 1:35
of course. So why don’t we start off by having you tell us a little bit about you know who you are and what you do?

Katherine Salisbury 1:43
Sure, so um, I’m Katherine Salisbury. I am a co founder and CO CEO of Qapital. I’m American but I live here in Sweden, where we have product and engineering but also where my significant other and co founder and CO CEO is from his Swedish. So that’s how we found our way back here. And I also have four little girls, a one year old, a three year old, a five year old and eight year old.

Maggie Germano 2:15
Wow, I only have a one year old and I have my hands full. So kudos.

Katherine Salisbury 2:20
Thanks. A handful. Yeah.

Maggie Germano 2:23
So you mentioned that you’re the co founder and CO CEO of Qapital. Can you tell us a little bit about what Qapital is and how you found your way into this?

Katherine Salisbury 2:34
Sure. So Qapital today is an app. You know, it’s grown a lot since we started working on it in 2013. But the idea is that it’s a place where you can manage all of your money, you can create your goals, you can decide how you’re going to get to those goals. But we also have the checking account and we invest it for you if you if you have long term goals or things that should be invested and not kept in cash. And the secret sauce to it all is the psychology and the emotional relationship we all have with money and how to use that to our advantage as opposed to our disadvantage. So everything’s built with the idea of of how is human psychology and relationship with money? You know, not being currently served today.

Maggie Germano 3:31
Yeah, I love that I’m a financial coach, myself. And so I’m very passionate about the emotional side of money, not just like, obviously, the numbers are really important, but they only go so far right when there is so much emotional baggage and behavioral issues that kind of tied to it. So I’m happy to hear that that’s part of it.

Katherine Salisbury 3:52
Yeah, absolutely. And we have, as we’ve grown capital, we’ve also built in the functionality for couples to work together with their money. So George, and I use our own life as the use case for practically all of the inspiration. But but, you know, five years ago when FinTech was just taking off it was just exciting to be able to start a checking account from your sofa and now we all have so many point solutions and George has his and I have mine and it’s really hard to keep track of everything and so that’s the idea behind the one of the latest features Dream Team. So bringing this together for couples as well.

Maggie Germano 4:36
Yeah, I love that because I mean that that’s something I hear a lot I mean, I’m I am married and so like that money conversation has been top of mind throughout the course of our relationship of like how to track and manage not only the day to day finances, but you know, things like future goals that we have savings plans, like all those sorts of things, and that’s definitely something I hear from a lot of clients as well. I work with A couple sometimes. So it’s good that people are starting to think about that of like how, because I feel like with other budgeting platforms, it is often just focused on just the individual person. And that’s often not how people are thinking about their finances when there is a partner or an entire family involved. So that’s good to hear that that’s part of that. And so how did you and your partner manage your household finances before you started, you know, thinking about starting an app and going from there.

Katherine Salisbury 5:36
I don’t think it ever came super naturally to us. It was, but for the most part, we take turns being it’s kind of like with parenting, too. We go through phases where maybe I’m the lead parent, or he’s the lead parent, we kind of do it with the household CFO role as well, there’s times when he’s leading the charge on all of it, because I’m maybe more focused on work. And then we’ll take turns and those those, you know, pulsing in and out is maybe can be six months, or it could even be 18 months or something before we hand the baton over. And normally the baton handing over happens because it’s like, I have no visibility into what’s going on. I need to look and then it’s once you dig in and start looking and you want to make changes, or just canceling million subscriptions right now, because the baton was handed over to him in January 2022. I couldn’t log into my New York Times the other day, I’m like, No, you went too far.

Maggie Germano 6:34
And does the Dream Team, part of Qapital? Like, how does that kind of help couples with that approach of like that management tool and maybe even like, providing some of that insight for both partners, even if one person is kind of the main caretaker of the money?

Katherine Salisbury 6:54
Yeah, I mean, for us the the idea of coming up with a spreadsheet where you fill in all of, you know, maybe you had your budget, but what did you actually do in January and February? That’s just tedious. And where do you find the time and it sits on the to do list for, say, a Saturday, and then we decide to do something more fun on Saturday, and, and it builds up. So the idea is get rid of that need to have to sit down and, and put it all in one spreadsheet. So we can link all of our accounts. So for example, anything that I can link, my AmEx, or my Robin Hood, or whatever, so that we can see it, but I can decide what to permission George to see. So maybe I show him the balance on my AmEx, but I don’t show him the transactions. Or maybe, you know, I show them everything. And same with the transfers. So so I can say, here’s, here’s you can see into my city bank account, and you can see my paycheck hit. But you can also move it so that you can move the money into say, The Girls College Fund or the retirement account. And then we have a feature I love called Pay database. So when the paycheck hits right now it’s automatically, you know, my my going into my buckets, whether it’s the summer vacation, or tuition or whatever. And so he can go and adjust my payday Debbie, if I permission him to

Maggie Germano 8:19
that that’s really interesting. And so, so like, the idea is there is that transparency, overall of like seeing balances, even seeing the actual transactions, but it doesn’t have to be there can still be some distance or privacy if say, you know, you want obviously, you want to be honest with each other, but But not everyone needs to see like every little detail of your daily spending.

Katherine Salisbury 8:46
Exactly. So I mean, if I have a city personal and a city joint, maybe I’m just showing sharing the Citi joint on my dream team dashboard. But when I log into capital, I see my personal and my joint. And so you get to toggle, it’s like a Venn diagram. You know, George has his universe, I have my universe, and then we have the universe we’re sharing with each other. And then I guess, maybe 15 years ago, that was a different amount of my universe I was sharing with him than it is today for kids in you know, just basically more and more gets shared over time. But you don’t you don’t have I don’t have to show him. I have an Amex if I don’t want to, but I can still be looking at my Amex on my capital. And that same with the capital checking account and the capital robos. I can have them and I can see them and then I can decide how much of it to share with George.

Maggie Germano 9:37
That’s great. And so how has that transparency or the ability to have that transparency and just also having all that information in one place? How has that changed the way that as a partnership you think about talk about deal with your money and your financial goals?

Katherine Salisbury 9:56
I think it gives there was so a couple of things one is the goal space. So everything we do at Qapital is goal based. So if you have cash, it’s sitting in a goal or if you have investments, it’s sitting in a goal. So then I have found helps us align, because when I make a goal, say ski trip, and I share it with George and say, Do you want to join towards the ski trip? How about we each put 1% of our paycheck towards the ski trip automatically, then he’ll see that I put a budget for the ski trip of I don’t know, $5,000. And he’ll say, Do we really need to spend $5,000. So we even get aligned at that goal setting phase because when I share that goal with him, he sees kind of my assumptions. And those things we used, I think we used to just coast over, we’d say, should we go skiing, let’s set aside money for skiing, and then would come time to book the ski trip. And it’s like, That’s too expensive. And I’d be like, that’s within budget, and we’d have that conversation. So the goal setting I think, is really good. And then seeing, okay, if we want to go in the ski trip, it is 1% of our paycheck for six months, or whatever it is. That’ll get us there, then you’re just kind of done stressing about it. And you don’t have the cognitive load of thinking about it again, and again. And again, it’s just like, automated and done. And you’ve made the decision and the plan wants together. And like, there it is. And now it’s time to go bucket and the money’s sitting there. So I think that takes a lot of stress out of our conversations to reanalyze, you know, a few months later. And then the transparency is great, because if someone is kind of taking on that CFO role, it’s annoying to do those Excel spreadsheets, but it’s also annoying for the other person to not know how much money we have. And then the last one, I guess is, is where where was I suppose the goals and then it’s the transparency, the movement. I guess we can also see that, you know, using using the debit card, we get the spending sweetspot. So we can see, you know, all of that stuff is aligned as well. Oh, it’s the communication tool. So I get irritated at the end of my day when I’m brushing my teeth or something. And George’s like, what was that expense on Amazon? I saw, I just I like these conversations contained out of my free time. So we have the communication tool. So if there’s an expense or something, think of it like a Google Docs where George can just tag it and say, what was this? And I can answer it in context. Which is nice, because then I’m not doing it like over dinner or you know, Saturday coffee. But also it’s recorded, like he doesn’t ask me twice.

Maggie Germano 12:42
That’s great. Yeah. So like, there still is communication, there is transparency, but it is contained. Like you said, instead of it just kind of coming up outside of that, unless like there is further conversation that might need to be had. But there’s at least already been at the start of that. And and I think that’s similar to what you were saying about like that goal setting piece where the the goal and the number and who’s going to be contributing what is all kind of decided and talked about upfront, when you’re setting that goal versus down the line when you’re like two weeks away from the vacation, and you’re like, oh my god, we don’t actually have enough. And then you have to like figure out what you’re going to do moving forward.

Katherine Salisbury 13:23

Maggie Germano 13:24
So it sounds like I mean, you You did say like take some of the stress out of the conversations and some stress out of managing the finances. But it also sounds like it might take some of that that tension out of certain financial conversations as well.

Katherine Salisbury 13:42
Yeah, and I really is one of the things we we learned when we were deep in the behavioral economics analysis, trying to think of the product is you only have so many units of good behavior or, you know, you only have so much bandwidth for decision making. And it’s pretty fatiguing to make decisions even if you don’t really realize it’s fatiguing you. So to take out the number of times you basically rethink about a decision in your in your day or your week or your month leaves you with more bandwidth to think about the financial decisions that are more impactful. So for example, with our spending sweet spot this week, developed with Dan Ariely, who’s a behavioral economist, he’s written a bunch of amazing books. They’re worth a read. But he said, For the budgeting tool, don’t think about your Netflix subscriptions or your car payments or your rent. Think about that once or twice a year. Don’t think about it every month, don’t really even track that. Think about the stuff that you can control every week or every day. You know, your taxes or your food budget or whether you bring lunch to work or what sort of coffee budget you have and just track that and and focus on that because it has the impact you’re not going to I mean You don’t really have to rethink about your Netflix subscription every month or every week. So don’t even put yourself through it and save the energy for thinking about your lunch budget, which is within your control every day. So I loved that. And I feel like we’re trying to put that everywhere, you know, just take the cognitive load out as much as possible. But also take out the risk that you change your mind, on a weekday, like on a day where you’re weak, not like Monday through Friday. And so that’s, that’s the idea behind automating everything, you capture it when you say, okay, 1% is going into whatever this fund is automated. And now you have to actually go and take energy in order to undo that, as opposed to redo the 1% every time your paycheck hits.

Maggie Germano 15:46
That’s a really, I like that, because I’m a big, I’m a huge fan of the automation approach to finances, it just in general, because I’m sure you know, this, like, it’s much easier to just spend what’s leftover after you save than it is to save what’s leftover after you spend, because oftentimes, there’s little if anything leftover after you spend. So I like that approach. Yeah, exactly. And so if if people are out there, and they’re, you know, they’re thinking about in their partnership, like starting to think about finances more as a team, wanting to either combine finances in some way, or just kind of, you know, look at things together, plan for things together. And they’re not really sure where to start, what’s some advice you would give, you know, both as someone who’s in a couple, someone who has an app that couples can use together and someone who’s been looking at the behavioral side of money, what’s some advice you would give for them to just like, get started in this?

Katherine Salisbury 16:49
You know, it’s interesting to me, living here in Sweden, because couples deal with their money so differently than in the States. And also, I’m a Gen X er, so people maybe you know, older than me are much more likely to have joint accounts and things like that once they get married and kind of truly pooled their finances versus a lot of our demographic that’s younger, that keeps a level of autonomy. So we’ve seen it all over the place. And what’s interesting to me is there’s no right way to do it. And so having people have that freedom in their head there, you don’t have to join all your finances just because you got married or you don’t have to keep it separated just because we moved in together, but you’re not yet you can you can do whatever you want. So, for me, it’s really rather than use like a principle like we combine all our finances or something like that. We actually don’t it’s more project based, you know, are we trying to go skiing to get in that’s in our finances just got more and more commingled because we had more and more common goals and Common uses. And, and so that, I think, I think that that’s just a nice way to take the pressure out of it. There’s no right way to do it. And just think of it on a project basis. What are we both trying to do together? And what are we trying to do separately and, and just commingle the common stuff?

Maggie Germano 18:14
Yeah, I think that that’s good. It really good advice. The piece of like that there is no one size fits all approach to managing finances and a couple because I you know, I’ve seen that too. Some people go all one way, you know, everything’s combined all joint accounts, nothing separate. Other people go like, absolutely nothing is joint everything is separate. Like, you know, we just don’t We don’t want to combine things. And then most people that I have met, it’s somewhere in between where, you know, you there’s a joint account to pay for things like rent or mortgage utilities, food, like anything that’s going to be you know, split as a household. And then people have their own personal checking, or, you know, personal credit cards where they can just pay for the things that are just for them. And then you know, as other things come up, like you said, different goals, whether it’s travel, or you know, if they have kids together, saving for different things for their kids, that’s going to be more combined. But yeah, just remembering like it is it is really important that you in your situation feel comfortable. And both of you feel comfortable versus trying to align to some kind of rulebook that doesn’t exist. Yeah. And so how How can folks like if someone’s like, Okay, I want to try out capital, I want to try out Dream Team. How can they kind of like get started in this with their partner to use it to kind of, you know, manage their finances to have that full picture together?

Katherine Salisbury 19:45
The I think the easiest way to get started is coming up with a goal or two or three together and setting that you both get a capital account and you link them as your dream team. And you share these goals whether Let’s look you know, ski trip or retirement or something. And when you share those, then you agree on how much it needs to be funded and how you’re going to fund it. Is it going to be a? Every time I walk 10,000 steps we put $10 in the Hawaii account? Or is it you know, one of the fun roles I have, I want to go fishing in Norway, it’s been set up just with the fun rolls, I never get there. The paycheck ones always get done with the just the random, random roundup ones, they you know, they build up, but never never enough. So you decide how you’re gonna do it. And then then the other piece, how much of your accounts do you integrate and share with each other maybe it’s just as simple as those capital accounts that you have the goals coming out of like the the investor the retirement or the a savings goal for a trip. But if you want to start to manage more of all the inflows and outflows, then I think you start linking all of your other accounts as well to have this dashboard.

Maggie Germano 21:01
Yeah, I think that’s great. And, and I would also say, you know, that, how you use a platform like this, and how you manage finances, as a couple can always change, right? Like, if you start a certain way, start sharing not too much or not want to, you know, have too much transparency, want to have a little bit more privacy, a little bit more of, you know, a separate approach to finances. Maybe like you said, like, if you are four kids in and you own a home together and you like so much is commingled, like, obviously, the way you approach your finances is going to have to evolve and change and that that’s okay. Yeah, absolutely. And so is there anything else that we haven’t touched on today, whether it’s about capital, or about, you know, managing finances within a couple? Anything that you want to make sure listeners take away today?

Katherine Salisbury 21:53
That’s a good question. Um, you know, I think we talked about how it’s personal and individual. And I really like thinking in a goal based perspective. And anything is better than nothing, I think is just a constant theme that people realize later, you know, I’m in my 40s. And I’m thinking why didn’t I set more aside for retirement in my 20s. And it was because I thought I had to set aside a certain percentage, and it was just a little bit too high. And so I did nothing instead of something. I feel like those little things add up. And, and when we started capital, it was really because we’d created our own hack, which was I just found that the idea of how much is in my checking, you know, I left school with a ton of debt. And I had high expenses, and I just kind of felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. And so I wasn’t really trying anymore. And George, the frugal Swede came in and he’s like, I think you could be doing better, Katherine. And I thought, well, I’m working really hard, and I’m exercising and you know, I’m doing all these other things, I don’t have the bandwidth, to also be good with my money. And we turned it into a spending experience by saying, okay, and when I’m being frugal here, and we’re doing something cheap, we’re gonna buy a piece of a trip to Kenya, or we’re gonna buy a piece of a piano and just made it kind of fun. And those psychological tricks go a long way, at least with me. To you know, those little slight habit changes make a difference. So my latest is, if I feel like going on Amazon and spending money, or I feel like going, you know, online, kids clothes shopping, I’ll instead go online stock shopping. And I used to feel like oh, I don’t know enough about investing to be buying stocks myself, but it’s super boring to just buy, you know, piece of a portfolio. And it’s much more fun to buy Tesla shares or something like that. And so I just let myself now because I don’t have to be perfect or great at it. It’s better than if I went and bought kids clothes. You know, for fun. Tesla shares are definitely going to be worth more than the Stella McCartney dress for my one year old. So those sorts of little twists in the brain mean you don’t have to take it so seriously all the time, I guess is where I’m going with this and make it fun.

Maggie Germano 24:28
Yeah, I love that I loved how you put it about. You know, the basically the reward of like doing something more frugally is that you’re buying a piece of this other bigger thing. I think that especially for people who have a really hard time saving money and like don’t feel like they’re disciplined enough for that or like you said it’s not fun enough to be motivating to actually do it. I think even just that small word change is like this. $100 is buying this this Safari trip or this car in the future, whatever it might be that I think that that’s such an interesting, tiny little shift that can really change the whole mindset for somebody when it comes to saving in the for the future.

Katherine Salisbury 25:13
Yeah. And another one. Another one we use is in our own dynamic, George, the car was dirty today. And he pulled out this like water spring power tool. And I’m like, Oh, my God, what does he spend money on? Right? He’s just got all these all these tools for the yard and the house. And I think it’s probably a little over budget. So, you know, you can either complain about it and say, George, do you think you’re spending a little too much on Home Depot? Or I can say, How about every dollar you spend at Home Depot, we put $2 in the girls college fund or something like that some sort of not syntax, because it’s not a sin to beat it. But it more just put some sort of friction around it. So that we’re all aligned. So when I see the next power tool, I’m like, Well, there’s two more dollars in the Girls College account.

Maggie Germano 26:02
Yeah, so it’s, it’s not only potentially a deterrent, because it’s like, if you’re going to be spending $100 at Home Depot, that means you’re going to be spending $200 for the college fund. But it also is like, if it’s not a deterrent, you go ahead and do the thing. You’ve also done a positive thing. Yeah, of course, you know, rather than it just being like, Oh, you spent money on this thing that maybe you didn’t really need. It’s like, well, no, I still did that. And I got what I wanted, and that’s fine. But I also did something, quote unquote, more responsible with our money too. And more more for like the future, I really liked that approach to offset it.

Katherine Salisbury 26:36
So then then we’re kind of in harmony, even when I see the power tool.

Maggie Germano 26:41
Yeah, it’s like kind of like carbon offsets of like, you’re buying this thing that’s gonna get shipped, you know, via plane, but then, you know, money is going towards something more sustainable as well. So it’s like, you’re still doing the thing, but then something else is benefiting at the same time. Yeah. I love that. So yeah, it sounds like there is that just subtle, small tweaks of that mindset, and even just language? Because I think language makes a big difference when people are talking about and thinking about money to have like, how they’re talking about it to themselves, can really change whether or not it’s motivating for them. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So thanks, again, for taking the time to chat today. How can people learn more about you and you know, learn more about Qapital?

Katherine Salisbury 27:35
Thank you for having me, I guess check us out in the App Store or Google Play, or you can always check out our website. And everything should be there. But it’s, it should be easy to just kind of dive in, you don’t need to know what you’re doing. Signing up for Qapital, you just start making a goal and go for it.

Maggie Germano 27:54
That’s great. And I’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes as well. So folks just have quick, easy access to that. And like I said, thanks so much for taking the time to share more about you know, your own experience with managing finances in a household and tell us a little bit more about your app.

Katherine Salisbury 28:12
Thank you. Thanks for the chat. It’s been really nice.

Maggie Germano 28:14
of course.

Maggie Germano 28:19
Thanks again for listening to the money circle podcast. If you want to learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings, or just to read my blog visit To get in touch with me directly email me at [email protected] You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @MaggieGermano. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye bye