Marriage and Money
Whether you’re in a new relationship, planning your wedding or celebrating your 50th anniversary, money enters the conversation. We all carry our own beliefs and emotions regarding finances that stem from our unique experiences. It’s natural to experience relational strain when trying to blend your money script with a partner’s beliefs. With the proper tools and open communication, however, you and your partner can have a healthy financial relationship that accomplishes your individual and collective goals. Here are some simple ways to create an aligned vision for your money and relationship so you can live out your dreams together.
Have an open dialogue.
Start by creating an open space for you to communicate and share your money feelings and goals. It’s important to listen to what your partner is saying without the goal of responding; simply listen for them to be heard and wait your turn. An easy trick is to set a timer. You get 5 minutes and your partner gets 5 minutes. During your time you get to speak without interruption or judgement and your partner gets the same respect during their time. Here are some conversation starters to get the ball rolling:
- Growing up, how did you feel about money? Did you feel a sense of scarcity or abundance?
- How do you feel about money now? How do you want to feel?
- What financial goals do you have over the next 1, 5, and 10 years (house, travel, start a business, retire, etc.)?
- What differences surrounding money do you feel there are between us (is one partner a spender and the other a saver)?
- What similarities do we share? What do we want to accomplish together?
Repeating back to your partner with a summary of what they said will confirm you heard them correctly and offer an opportunity for additional clarity. Now that you’ve identified each others’ feelings and your similarities and differences, you can positively create your money goals both as individuals and as a couple.
Create a spending plan.
Your mind is probably jumping to a budget. But “budgeting” has such a negative connotation and creates a scarcity mindset, emphasizing what we can’t have. What you want is an abundance mindset; a feeling of empowerment that you can attract what you desire. A spending plan gives you the freedom and the ability to create what you want. It shows you how your money is serving you and allows you to live out your goals. A spending plan assigns a purpose to every dollar.
My husband and I practice this and it’s actually exciting! You see what your hard-earned dollars are earning you both now and in the future. And what’s even better is that it helps avoid arguments! Our spending plan includes date night money, Tuscany wine tour money, furnace-breaking money, TargetⓇ money, man cave money, etc. Your spending plan simply takes all the things that need to get done and all the things you dream about, organizes them and puts them into action. Here’s an example of what we create with our clients every day here at MainStreet:
As you can see, just about every dollar is accounted for on a monthly and annual basis. In other sections, we separate out income, fixed expenses, variable expenses, taxes, and savings. We further drill down each of those sections to get specific to your goals and needs; i.e. your spending plan. An easy and free way for you and your partner to get started is to download the mint.com app. You can create a one-stop-shop portal for yourself to track your income, expenses, and savings by easily linking your bank accounts and credit cards.
Align your goals.
You’ve had an honest conversation about money, you’ve created your spending plan, now it’s time to refine and align your goals. Something that’s essential (but can lead to feelings of guilt or resentment when not handled with care), is creating and realizing your individual goals. Although you’re in a relationship, you’re still individuals and shouldn’t expect to agree on everything nor will you solely want the same things. You and your partner are a team and teams thrive collectively with the strengths of the individuals. Extinguishing yours or your partner’s flame will result in a collapse of your team. In creating your spending plan and your goals, you make room for your own desires as well as your joint goals.
For example, maybe you love collecting fresh shoes and your partner loves a monthly spa day, and together you want to enjoy a beautiful 2-week vacation abroad each fall. Create separate line items for each of these goals in your spending plan and agree on dollar amounts for each. Then, for these short-term goals, open three high-yield savings accounts and label them, “Shoe Money”, “Spa Money”, “Vacay Money”. Finally, set up automatic transfers to those accounts and when it’s time to spend on those items the money is accounted for.
This is just one example of how you can give your income a purpose. This concept applies to organizing your funds around taxes, insurance, education, buying a home, and other items that apply to you and your partner. Discussing your feelings and goals openly, creating a plan, and consistently putting it into action will help you to enjoy your hard-earned money, avoid arguments, and accomplish your dreams together.