Are Your Partner's Money Habits Dragging You Down?

Relationship Coach: Partner's Money Habits Dragging You Down?

Working Together About Money
Many decisions have to be made about money for couples who are planning to move in together and/or get married:

• Are you going to keep your earnings in joint or separate accounts?
• How will you divide basic living expenses?
• How will you use credit cards?
• Do you need to have some privacy around money?
• What would you want to do if you received a large bonus one year?
• Do you like luxuries and lavish vacations? Or are you just as happy camping in a tent—if it means you can save your money?
• What is your approach to saving for child’s college education?
• What is your approach to saving for retirement?
• What will you do if one of you inherits some money?

The most important thing is communication. Reasonable people can have different approaches, and different answers to all of those questions — and you and your honey have to figure out what will work best for you. After a couple has done their spending research, they should consider scheduling a monthly meeting where they communicate about expenditures and any other financial matters needing immediate attention. 

An example may be that neither needs to "get permission" from the other about what they spend, unless it goes over a specific dollar amount. At that point, the agreement is to check in and discuss if needed. Or for some couples, each may have "personal spending accounts" (with a set amount each month) outside of the joint accounts, allowing each person the freedom to make their desired purchases without feeling that the other person might try to control, judge, or criticize how they spend the money.

Set some parameters around credit card debt. That is the one thing that can quickly spiral out-of-control. Agree to share the balances with each other periodically. Discuss ways to handle bonuses, and vacation planning, so that both can enjoy these perks and surprises without feeling that it's breaking the bank.

Both people should become financially accountable and aware about what money is coming in (and from where), and what money is going out.  One of the ways to do your spending research is to track each and every single penny you both spend over a one month period, so that you both have a clear and realistic understanding about how and where you spend.

Consider Mediation
However, if talking together about money still feels like you're struggling to climb the highest mountain, then you might want to consider seeking assistance from a professional financial advisor who can help you devise the right plan for the two of you. Either way, it is imperative to keep an open dialogue about your differing money personalities and how to balance them in your relationship! As with most things in life, the more we avoid a situation, the more stressful it becomes; the more we lean into the unknown, the easier it gets.

As for Joe and Samara, they had a better understanding of each other after their discussion in mediation. Joe said that he didn't really get it; that eating leftovers while hanging out together at home felt to him like enough quality time, and he felt connected to Samara. However, he could see that going out to dinner once in a while was important to her, so he looked at the budget and said that they could probably go out once per month (including the cost of a sitter), and he agreed to commit to that. 

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Samara said that the process of really looking at their budget was eye-opening for her, as she had no sense of how much money went in and out each month. She said she had a new appreciation of how well Joe managed their finances. They discussed ways that she could be more involved, on an ongoing basis, and she agreed that she should check the bank statements occasionally. She also agreed to look at some college savings calculators, to figure out what they could put away for their son.

So what's there to learn here? communicate about money! They say that we have more trouble talking about money than about sex, but healthy couples will talk about both! Once you have your financial discussions taken care of, you can move onto the really fun stuff.