There was the one tiny area of the stock market where our habits diverge. Where he sees opportunity, I see potential disaster. A bad experience with dot-com stocks in my early 20s (they crashed) has left me yearning for safety. It turns out we're pretty typical for our genders. Research shows that men tend to make riskier investments, while women prefer more conservative ones, which is why married couples who balance out each other's natural tendencies tend to do better with their investments than single people.
But we should have expected conflict. Bonnie Eaker Weil, relationship therapist and author of Financial Infidelity, says we tend to be attracted to our "financial opposites," so savers are drawn to big spenders and vice versa. We do it, she says, as a way of balancing our own impulses. While the contrast can lead to disagreements, it also helps lead to a balanced end result, so don't be afraid of differences, she says.
Once we figured out how we differed when it came to money, we devised a strategy to handle those differences. For me, it was keeping investment accounts separate; for others, it may mean sharing all accounts or keeping all accounts separate.
We quickly realized that if he kept a separate account for that one activity, then we could bypass hours of debate over whether he should invest in a riskier stock or safer bonds, or whether he should take money out of our savings account to put it in the market. In return for this freedom, he wouldn't put any additional funds into the account, and he would liquidate it if we ever needed the cash.
It's turned out to be a winning arrangement. I don't have to worry about whether First Solar has made its comeback or if Big Oil is reporting its earnings. When he complains to me about the fact that he lost $500 during one day, I can sympathize instead of getting angry. And our rule about not adding more money to his stock market account has saved us thousands of dollars in losses from the market's recent downturn. In fact, in November, my husband's account briefly fell below its initial $5,900 level—a sign of just how far the market has fallen. He's sad about the losses, but not nearly as sad as he would be if I had been upset, too.