Couples are more comfortable talking about sex and death than their finances.
It’s ironic but true. Studies around the world reveal that while money is an integral part of our lives, speaking about it is taboo in most homes. Yet, financial issues are also responsible for 1 in 4 divorces, meaning that if we don’t want money to bust up our relationship, we have to bust the money silence.
But why is it so hard?
For one, society has historically told us that speaking about money is crass. Money is often considered a symbol of status. To be rich and speak of it, and you’re boasting. To be poor and discuss it frequently comes with shame. Rightly or wrongly, we make judgements based on how much a person makes.
Secondly, if our environment doesn’t encourage us to outwardly express our views towards money, it’s very likely we ourselves haven’t truly examined our deep-seated beliefs and motivations around it either. Each and every one of us has a unique money personality. Some people see money as a means of gaining approval, power or prestige. Some associate security and peace of mind with money. Yet for others, money conjures up a sense of fear and anxiety. These views affect how we spend, save, invest and give. And these ultimately affect our relationships.
For the sake of a healthier and happier relationship, we need to have these “money talks”. Here are three ideas on how you can approach your partner.
Be Open and Empathetic
You will have money conflicts with your partner several times in your relationship. Resolving these takes empathy, impartiality, patience and self-reflection. When you remember that both of you have a different view of money, and entrenched behaviours related to it, you’re likely to be more sympathetic to each other’s weaknesses and less judgemental.
Admit to your mistakes – clean the slate. This will also create space for the other to own up to theirs. A friend of mine told me that he would hand over his credit card statement to his wife and invite her to ask questions about his expenditures. This would open up a dialogue about what they valued. In turn, she started doing the same. They realised that while they had some differences, they had more in common and the biggest was they both wanted to form better money habits.
Focus on Financial Goals
Make a list of the short-term, medium-term and long-term goals you’d like to achieve. Have your partner do the same. Then, find the few objectives that you agree on, and devise a plan on how you’ll individually contribute in reaching them.
For example, you may decide that you and your partner want to buy a house in five years time. You may agree to forgo buying an expensive club membership, and your partner may agree to find a part-time job.
By doing this, you’ll tackle goals that are meaningful for both of you, giving you both incentive to reach them. And by using your own methods, you’re buying into the process and you’ll feel like your sacrificing for the greater good rather than for each other.
Schedule Regular Money Talks
You may have every intention to keep the line of communication open when it comes to money but as we all know, life gets in the way and it will become too easy to find excuses to delay or avoid it, especially if there’s some discomfort around certain topics.
So, agree on and schedule in a monthly review of the family finances to go over the previous month’s cash flows, or to discuss upcoming expenses or personal finances issues. And remember to do something fun or romantic after!
In conclusion, what I’d say is that it’s not the differences in handling money that usually cause marital issues. After all, you’re with your significant other BECAUSE of their differences, and the strengths they bring to the relationship. Problems arise when one neglects the other’s viewpoint or puts the onus on one partner to fix financial issues impacting both partners.
So break the silence. Have the “money talk”. You’ll be happier and financially healthier for it.