Almost everyone knows that money and finance issues is one of the most common causes of divorce in our country. Because finances are such a minefield for many couples, they often avoid talking about it and just hope that everything will work out. As the divorce statistics illustrate, however, that’s usually a very bad idea.
As an advice-based financial planner, I work with a lot of couples and I believe it’s my responsibility as a fiduciary and a mentor to help them work not only on their finances and retirement planning, but also on how they relate to each other when it comes to discussing money. In my series of blogs on money management for couples, I’ve already covered spending discretion, taking responsibility, and common issues that crop up when couples try to work on their finances together. However, what it all boils down to is that couples need to find a way to talk about money without fighting. Here are three things I teach my own clients that can help you and your partner navigate the sometimes treacherous terrain of discussing money.
Know Your Partner
How well do you really know your partner? Many of us are surprised to find that we’ve gone through many years of life with a significant other who we only know on a surface basis. This can really cause some issues when it comes to finances—especially if you and your partner have very different personality types. If you haven’t yet, both you and your partner should take personality tests and share the results with each other. I recommend 16 Personalities and the Kolbe Index for my clients. 16 Personalities goes deep into characteristics like introvert vs extrovert and idealism while the Kolbe is a conative test that shows how people tend to take action. When you really get to know your partner and what makes them tick, you not only improve your chances of communicating effectively about money, but you also deepen your relationship in a number of other areas as well.
Understand Your Partner’s Upbringing
My wife and I come from very different backgrounds. Though we weren’t rich, we always had more than enough in our household and I never had to feel the squeeze of finances. My wife, on the other hand, came from a big family and everyone had to pitch in to support and help provide. Even though we’re years removed from our childhoods, they still have a big impact on us. My wife is much more of a saver while I can be a bit of a spendthrift. Understanding where your partner came from is instrumental in realizing why you think differently about money. It can also help you develop more empathy for them and also help you figure out ways to navigate your different ideas about money and finances.
Use Issues as Flares versus Clubs
It’s inevitable that some issues will crop up when you and your spouse discuss money. There’s just no way that both of you will agree on everything when it comes to budgeting, retirement planning, and spending. The key is to view these issues as flares to draw your attention so you can pay attention to the issue and find a way to resolve it. Too many couples use financial issues as clubs to beat each other up with. I’ve heard plenty of ‘we agreed on this and you did that instead’ or ‘why did you buy that without telling me?’ when I talk with my clients, and it does neither party any good and breeds tons of resentment. When you look at the issues as beacons and take the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about your partner, you strengthen the relationship and avoid future disagreements.
Talking about money with your significant other will not always be easy and you will not always agree on everything. That doesn’t, however, mean you shouldn’t do it. You simply have to have some guidelines in place, get to know your partner, and treat them with love and kindness when issues do arise. This will help you develop a more harmonious relationship with your finances and create a more stable and supportive relationship. Is your advisor helping you and your spouse talk about money? If not, please reach out. I’d love to tell you how I help my own clients and see if I might be able to do the same for you.
Patrick Tucker, the owner of True Measure Wealth Management, has over 20 years experience in the industry and has spent the last 15 years learning the ins and outs of the fee-only advisory business. He focuses on client behaviors and what ‘wealth’ means for each individual client to provide care-giving plans that lead to a mindful fulfillment of financial goals. A lifelong learner, Patrick uses his continued knowledge to become a valued partner for his clients and help them explore the wisdom of true wealth.