Marriage & Money: How Your Backgrounds Influence Decisions

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Marriage & Money: How Your Backgrounds Influence Decisions
You grew up upper-middle class. He fell on some hard times. So how do you reconcile your finances?

The topic of money in a committed marriage is important because each partner upholds their own value of money based on the way they have learned to perceive its meaning. Whether you grew up wealthy, impoverished, or somewhere in the middle, you and your partner have philosophies that are either in sync or unfortunately incongruent with your lifestyle as a married couple.

For example, say you grew up in an upper middle class household where your parents provided for you, and you never went without. You grew up knowing that if you needed anything, like a new bike, winter coat, or college education, it would always be there. But now, you have your own bank account and income, but nowhere near the amount your parents had, yet you are accustomed to buying and shopping for the luxuries and necessities, as you need them — not when you can afford them. Growing up having access to everything conditioned you to feel secure about money. The dilemma is that now, living with your partner and a budget, you're limited in obtaining the niceties you grew up enjoying. Emotionally, it's conflicting, in that you're feeling deserving but cannot purchase the things you're used to based on your partnership, financial budget, and adulthood: You're no longer dependent on your parents.

Now let's say your partner grew up differently: Their spending experience was similar, but then a tragedy happened. His family fell on hard times; his father got sick or had legal problems costing the family their home and comfortable, secure lifestyle. They went from riches to rags. Losing their money was frightening and impacted their lives. This traumatic financial crisis taught your partner how to save for a rainy day. It may not have been talked about in his home, but he noticed the new stress between his parents, the cut-backs, the shame, and more.

The financial transition into your adult relationship either happens easily or turns out to be a disaster. Once you're married, and especially if you have kids, the situation can get worse unless the discussion and rules about money are adhered to. The truth is, if you and your partner have different perspectives about money, you need to talk about it. And if the relationship is going to last, both of you will need to shift your thinking about your behavior when it comes to the mighty dollar. Be smart.

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