Monday, January 14, 2019
How to be a Money Couple
Organizing your own finances can be challenging for some. Adding another person in the mix can be very difficult. I know from experience how money can complicate relationships. It drives wedges, creates jealousy and overall just makes things difficult. Be it that over 50% of marriages end in divorce and of those, most end due to money stress, I think it would be prudent to tackle the elephant in the room. Today I am going to give 10 Tips on How to Tackle your Finances as a Couple. Skip the Netflix tonight and do something that might actually help you as a couple.
1) Ummm, just talk about it?
Sounds easy right? WRONG! Most couples have money issues that drive a wedge between them because they just don’t talk about it. Communication is the key to any relationship, whether it’s with your wife or your gardener. You have to discuss what’s on your mind. Ladies, we men are not mind-readers. We literally have no clue what you are thinking about ever. In fact, for most of us, we spend our whole lives trying to understand you and I have yet to find one man yet who does. Talk to your man about your concerns and fears. Men, stop being stubborn about money. Weakness does not define you and tough times do not make you less of a man. Keeping things secret from your spouse will only drive the wedge further. Couples who discuss money make plans, set goals and ultimately live rich fulfilling lives. Couples that don’t end up on Match.com.
2) Lay it all out there
I mentioned how keeping things secret can hurt relationships. I am going to elaborate on that. DO NOT hold from your spouse your money issues. Just like that lower back tattoo, they will eventually find out. Shopping addiction, gambling problems, money owed to family, secret wife in another province, it’ll all come out in the end. By keeping it secret you are almost guaranteeing that when it comes out, it’ll be the end. The question you must ask yourself is this: If you love each other no matter what does hiding things from your spouse help or hinder that love? Trust me from experience, just get it all out there, the sooner the better.
3) What is your money personality?
It can be difficult to be compatible when it comes to money. Your money personality is what guides you in terms of how you handle money. Are you a spender or a saver? Are you cheap or are you lavish? Are you hard working or are you lazy? Heads up men, don’t be lazy. Take some time with your loved one and discuss what makes you tick money-wise. When you do this together you can work on emphasizing each other’s strengths and honing in on each other’s weaknesses.
4) To merge or not to merge
The actual act of combining finances can be tricky. There are several methods, but I will show you 3.
This is where you both share one account and all the money goes into it and all the expenses come out of it. This is complete transparency. Each person can see what is going on at all times. The positive of this system is that there is no hiding what you spend money on. It is complete accountability. The negative of this system is the same as the positive, complete transparency. Each partner can nitpick each other’s choices. This is why knowing each other’s money personality is key.
Shared account, separate personal accounts
This method has the couple sharing one account where shared expenses come out of. The money will go in to pay for those shared expenses, either the whole paycheck or an agreed upon amount. Money then comes out to handle the monthly bills. Each person will have their own separate accounts as well, for their own spending. The positive of this method is that it screams fairness, each person puts in what they should. The negative is that it might not end up being fair. Variance in income, or spending, or trust can ruin this type of system. Again, see point 2.
This system has the couple keeping their finances completely separate, with no intermingling. Bills get taken care of, possibly divvied up. The positive of this system is each person gets to “keep” what they earn. The negative of this is glaringly obvious, no transparency at all. Jealousy can develop along with resentment. I reserve this system for uber-wealthy couples.
5) The family budget
Creating a family budget is extremely important. Missing deadlines because the two of you have no clue what’s going on is unacceptable. It will prevent you from doing what you want in life. Take some time to write down all the expenses and income you both bring in. Understand what is a “fixed” expense and what is a “variable” expense. Prioritize them based on necessity. Know your “break-even number,” meaning the number you must earn monthly just to function. Take some time on a monthly basis to review the finances. This is vital because it keeps the lines of communication open. Having a budget night can be fun. I recommend some wine to keep it light. Couples that budget together, stay together.
Debt kills relationships. Literally kills them. The stress debt brings is an unbearable burden for couples. When you enter a relationship and it starts to get serious, it is important to lay it out what debts you have. The reason is simple, bringing debt into a relationship adds a layer of difficulty. This layer needs to be addressed as a couple. Understand that sacrifices from both people will be needed for debt-freedom to be achieved. The debt-free spouse will have to buckle down and shoulder the load while the indebted spouse tackles it. Understand that when you join forces, their problems are now yours. This means that you must work together, however you decide, to boost the family as a whole. Not doing so will make both of you feel isolated and alone.
This is a crucial part of the family unit as well. Couples that set goals together, run this mother. SO many couples I meet have never sat down together to discuss their goals and dreams. It is a shame they feel. Like having personal goals is selfish. Heads up, it’s not. Bettering yourself betters the family. Discuss what personal goals you have with each other, but also the goals you have for the family as well. This can and should be fun. It is always exciting to talk about the future unless of course, the future is bleak because of your lack of planning. This can be done over wine too…
Having financial priorities is vital. Some people’s main priority is rocking their career. For others, it is saving for a home or retirement. Some people have the priority of hating debt with a passion. I love those people. Understand what each other’s money priorities are. This ties into your money personality. When you couple the personality, with the priorities, you have the blueprint of how you should approach money with your partner. An example would be that if you have a partner that fears debt. You being willy-nilly with debt could ruin the relationship. These priorities will show you how you should treat your partner and how you should act in your own right.
9) Don’t be an asshole
Seriously, just don’t. I learned this one the hard way. No one likes hearing “I told you so.” No one likes hearing how bad they messed up. If you are with an idiot who doesn’t know they messed up, that’s your fault. Most people know when they made a mistake and rubbing their nose in it creates a toxic environment. Also, don’t be a bragger. No one likes hearing how great you are, especially if they are struggling. Work on problems as a team and celebrate triumphs in the same way. If you feel yourself about to say something mean, just stop. Think if you would want to hear it. You definitely would not.
10) Take is seriously
Don’t be the couple that thinks everything is just going to fall into place. Unless you act, it won’t. Plan your money marriage as thoroughly as you plan your vacations. Care about it as if your relationship depends on it because it kind of does. Love will only take you so far, the foundation must be there as well. While the daily can be light-hearted, the overall should be anything but. Your goals, your necessities, your dreams should all be highly prioritized. Time can slip away while life happens, and you don’t want to be elderly wondering why you didn’t talk about money sooner.
Working as a team is the first step to financial freedom. Money can be a great wedge or a great unifier. How it works for you will be determined by how you approach it. You don’t want to be another statistic making lawyers rich.
“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.” – Barbara De Angelis
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