Apart from adultery and overwork money is the single issue cited most by people who end up divorcing before their 20th wedding anniversary. Whilst it may not be the root cause of unhappiness in a relationship it can be the most contentious issue when the arguments start. There can be constant snipping and digs thrown. Even when the money argument does not lead to divorce it can be a source of constant stress and relationship dissatisfaction.
To deal with the stress and anxiety it is important to consider each partner’s relationship with money. How can you do this?
Most of us learn our money habits from our parents. It is not on the school curriculum (I think it would be a great Transition Year life skill subject.) We start to observe how they spent their money incredibly early in our lives. It is then uncanny how we either replicate the habit or take the totally opposite approach.
For this discussion, I will restrict the money habits to 2 stereotypical behaviors.
Let us start with the archetypal “shopaholic”. You all know them. The instant gratification junkies. They cannot wait to buy the latest, best, or must-have item. They will stop at nothing to acquire their items of desire even going into debt by way of overdraft or credit card spending. They buy on impulse and pay little attention to how they will survive in the future.
The second typical type is the compulsive saver. They want money in the bank, they shop around until they have found absolutely the cheapest price for the product or service they need. Money is never spent without a thorough examination of the necessity for the product or service. Debt is bad cash in the bank is good.
So, you ask can these two types live in the same relationship without causing friction. The answer is yes. But to do so it requires a recognition of the other type. I do not mean just accepting and ignoring your partner’s behavior because that is the way they are. This will only result in long term resentment on your part. No, it requires that each partner acknowledges their own money type first and the impact it can have on their future. They can then consider changes that will result in a better fuller life for themselves.
The conversation can then start between partners with an admission of their own type and perhaps some of the influences that have led them to be either the “saver” or “spender”. You can then ask about your partner’s influences, like their parents. A conversation about their parents’ quality of life and financial outcomes can then give an understanding of the partners’ habits.
This conversation will require being patient. It will not necessarily be easy as these money habits have been formed over many years and in many cases come from very respected teachers, in each of your parents. They are very personal, and any questioning may be seen as unwarranted criticism.
This is where a “life-centered” financial planner using their skills and experience can help. They will spend a great deal of time discussing with you your personal stories. They will examine your relationships with money and note differences. They will have you describe your best lives and the many versions available to you. A financial planner will work out what is your enough. This life centered approach will make the conversation about money be based on fact and not on emotion. Only after this process is completed will they then start the work to calculate what money is required to meet your shared goals and visions.
If you have any thoughts on the subject above I would love to hear from you.