Couples and Finances: How to figure out your money personality

Couples and finances: how to figure out your money personality

Figuring out your money personality: do you often find yourself fighting with your partner about money? Perhaps no matter how often you argue about money, the two of you can never come up with an agreement that works, so you just keep doing your own thing? By default, the lack of agreement, is an agreement.

When individuals enter into a relationship, that means two different people, with two very different backgrounds are trying to blend into one style in certain areas, and one of these areas is money.  There are a lot of financial responsibilities that require both of you when in a marriage. What is especially difficult is when couples find themselves many years into their marriage in a bad financial pattern. Whether you don’t agree with your spouse’s spending or saving styles, how bills are handled, or you find yourselves in serious debt, it takes two to make money work in a marriage. There’s a common misconception that money is the main cause of divorce and couples conflict, however it’s the way money is handled and perceived that can create a wedge?

Begin with a conversation to understand how your partner views money. This includes your partner’s approach. style, and comfort level with money. Does your partner avoid or confront financial issues?  Is your partner by nature a spender or a saver? Does your partner become uncomfortable or agitated when discussing bills or financial obligations?

Discuss what happened in your family of origin. What was money like growing up? Did money grow on trees, or was it paycheck to paycheck? Was money ever discussed around you as a child, or was it a constant fight and source of stress between your parents? Identify three things you liked about how your family handled money, and three things you did not. Do you practice any of these approaches today in your own life?

Set guidelines as to how you talk and handle money as a couple. Successful couples have a conversation that focuses solely on money, this is not the time to have a discussion about the bed not being made, or dishes in the sink. Use positive language when talking about money.  Identify with your partner if there are any buzz words that turns your partner off, what tones are prefer  Such as, using I-statements, and avoiding blaming, and you-statements. The use of I-statements promote balance in a conversation, ownership of conflict, and is a non-attacking approach to communication. When you start a conversation with blaming, or saying things like “you never pay the bills on time,” the conversation about something as sensitive as money has already begun on a bad note, not mention an attacking note too!

Discuss and agree on four places that you do not talk about money. For example, the car, in front of the kids, in public, in bed. Identifying the four places that money cannot be approached not only provides structure around the conversation, but will help you and partner identify where money talk is okay (through the process of elimination).

Implicit agreements: “How did we get here?”The two of you made an informal contract of how to handle money. Your behaviors around the finances indicate this agreement. What were the sacrifices you both made? Where/how do you see your contributions to the current conflict? What were the hidden/unspoken contracts between you  your partner? For example, what were some of the developed rules or roles each of you took on without a discussion or verbal acknowledgment? What made it okay? At some point, you were able to justify  certain actions on both sides, what were they?  Why now? What is it about your current situation that motivates you to address your money and correct your bad patterns now? If you were single, would you handle your money differently, or do you think your approach and perspective would be the exact same?

Steps to Get out of this: What’s your short-term goal?  Identify two short-term, measurable goals. Such as two habits, two money problems, or two bills that you would like to handle and resolve in the next month.  Based on your previous record in time in achieving certain goals, be realistic about the time and type of goals to achieve. Depending on your financial situation, some ideas for short-term goals include: put half of your paycheck in savings each pay period starting now, star a piggy bank, or change bowl, cut up a retail-store credit card, make a calendar for due dates for bills.

What’s your long-term goal? Once you achieve the small steps listed in your short-term finance goals, what’s your ideal place to be (financially) in one year or more? Long-term goals will be larger goals that will require not only more time, but more steps, and more concentration.  Such goals include, saving $10,000 for a down payment on a house, eliminating credit card debt, or school loans, etc.

Large goals may mean putting on hold other dreams, not everyone can have it all. Some couples may mean work a part time job, put off vacation in order to afford the house or the extra education, etc.

Roles: Who takes care of what?   The most efficient way you and your partner will achieve your listed goals is through a teamwork effort to eliminate bad habits of finances and achieve your ideal. You may need to restructure the way you handle your money. For example, maybe for years you and your partner have had only separate bank accounts, and now it’s time to try an approach that allows both people to view what’s going in, and what’s going out of the account. Or perhaps it’s time to sell your home and downsize to a place with a more affordable mortgage.

This also includes being open and honest about your financial habits, checking in with your partner and including him/her on all things money related, especially major bills and big purchases. With new goals often comes new roles. Each partner needs to assume new roles within how you as a couple manage your assets. Perhaps your spouse needs to take the responsibility for paying the bills each month, or you need to start checking in with your spouse and asking before making any purchases.

No one said change would be easy. If change was easy, it would happen a lot more for people! Change can often be a scary experience, you are taking out what may feel natural, and replacing it with a very unnatural and new behavior, or outlook. Addressing your financial problems with your partner involves a level of honesty and directness that can leave one feeling vulnerable and scared of the outcome. You and your partner are working towards a great goal, your relationship and your future will be all the better for the change that you are embarking on now.

Moving Forward (couples and finances)  To keep you and your partner moving forward with your financial goals, and to get even more proactive, it is recommended you meet with a financial planner to asses your strategy and ultimate goals, and to explore your options. It is recommended to look for a planner who is an educator at heart.  It can be difficult to put an end to certain habits, and it can be especially difficult to be communicative about our bad habits.  In any partnership, money is a major aspect of a relationship, and it has to be addressed in order to modify some of our unhealthy patterns.

For additional information or questions on couples counseling in Philadelphia, call us at 215-570-8614.