When I first got the idea for this topic I immediately thought of my husband and The Beatles tune, “Can’t Buy Me Love.” You remember that song:
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cause I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.
Now diamond rings may make us feel alright. And money may or may not buy us love. But when was the last time you had a heart to heart talk with your partner about money? Is it as easy to discuss money matters as an intimate pillow talk or does the topic seem more like a buzz kill to avoid?
Truth be told, money has a lot to do with the success of relationships. According to research, the greatest source of tension for most married couples is money, followed by sex and house chores.
While not enough money or too much debt causes stress and arguments, and more assets create a sense of security and overall satisfaction, money matters in relationships often go deeper than the amount of assets and debts.
When I first met my husband, we were both professionals working in finance. We were young, so in love with each other, and we loved money. I loved to save, and he loved to invest—and also provide for his extended family. When we married we quickly realized that we had very different money values, habits, and expectations about money.
These differences that my partner and I held in how we viewed and spent or saved money were difficult to articulate to one another, as it is for so many couples—the money issue so deeply rooted in how we were brought up and our own personal experiences even before we ever met—and oftentimes could be charged with emotions that lead to stress and resentments.
While reaching a consensus on our money differences is still a work in progress, I wonder:
Does money talk always cause tension, stress and conflict between couples or can discussing money matters bring unity, harmony, and happiness, even intimacy, in relationships? Can differences about money be reconciled?
First, we absolutely must talk about money.
Engaging one another to discuss money matters is essential to build a strong and financially sustainable relationship.
Here are 4 key areas to unlocking the many money mysteries in love and marriage:
1. Understand and reach a consensus about each other’s money values
In most relationships, each person will have a different approach to money and finances. It’s not really about who is right and who is wrong.You have your own way with money, as does your partner.
By engaging each other to talk about money matters we come to understand how our partner thinks about money that informs how they prefer to use their money, even if you both seem to hold extremely opposing money views and behaviors. This basic understanding is the first step toward reaching a common ground.
2.Create common financial goals for your joint future
Now that you both are together, what do you both want to do with your life together? Buy a house, travel places, start a family, change jobs, retire early?
All these hopes and dreams have financial implications. It is good to think of each shared goal with a certain amount of dollar sense and build a financial plan to help you prioritize and make those dreams a reality. The plan serves as a solid foundation for your partnership. You can always come back to this foundation when you face financial decisions that require “trade-offs.”
3. Empower each other
Oftentimes in relationships there is one partner who takes on the responsibility of managing the family finances while the other partner is less involved. This approach over time may create a certain gap of understanding if the other partner feels left out of the loop. This gap can lead to a host of potential problems with one of the partners feeling a sense of distrust, powerlessness, helplessness, discontent and resentment. This makes financial decision-making difficult because each partner has different assumptions and expectations due to the gap in knowledge. This becomes especially problematic with life events like loss of spouse or divorce, when the less informed or less involved partner must suddenly take charge of household finances.
It is best to inform your partner about the family’s financial affairs on a regular basis so there is a mutual sense of transparency, trust and empowerment that is needed to mitigate potential problems.
4. Create a system and process that you both agree on upfront
Love relationships like money matters require constant maintenance. That includes financial follow-up and follow-through. Think of ways that you can easily track how you and your partner use money, spend money and save money. I recommend convenient online tools such as Mint.com and Yodlee.com, or software programs you can buy like Quicken. Check in with your partner or a professional on a regular basis. Make it a routine like a family meal or a date night.
When things are complicated (such as late-life marriage and/or second marriage), consider creating a written agreement (a pre-marital agreement before the marriage; or, a post-marital agreement after the marriage) to clarify intentions, responsibilities and expectations for each other and set legal agreements. This gives you a place to return to when your plans aren’t working. That way, if one spouse veers off the plan, you have an agreed upon course of action.
“A written agreement defining the financial expectations of a marriage is one of the best ways to reduce or eliminate disagreements over money; and, should a divorce ever occur, the best way to move through a divorce in a cost-effective manner.”
– Marlo Van Oorschot, Van Oorschot Law Group, PC. Click HERE for her related blog.
So when it comes to your honey and money, just think of the 4 keys to unlock the mysteries of love and marriage I mentioned, and you’ll be humming sweet nothings to your partner along to The Beatles song:
Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love
If at first you don’t succeed… try, try again
It’s difficult to avoid all money conflicts in marital relationships. When we differ, it is easy to judge the other and defend our own positions. However, what ultimately unites us is common ground – our values, our goals, and our agreements. Communication is key. Keep trying. And most of all, do not let frustration and resentment build. Money cannot buy love, but effective communications about money can definitely buy harmony and happiness in marriage for a long time.
If you’d like assistance with communicating and building your financial future as a couple, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310.207.4800.
You can also attend my bi-monthly Women’s Circle. The next one is happening on October 25th at 5pm in our office. We will dedicate this session to the topic of “Money & Intimate Relationships” and practice having conversations about these issues.