Aug 24, 2017

3 Steps to Alleviate Money Issues in Your Relationship

By Byron Ellis

Relationships are hard work. Don’t get me wrong. They are worth the fight. But they are still work. I have seen many studies on money and it’s potentially negative effect on relationships. I talk to many couples and I have counseled my fair share of people that were having issues centered on money. If you love someone but can’t stop bickering over money, what can you do? I suggest three steps that may not change the way each of you views the finances in your relationship, but could help smooth out the arguments over the green bills.

  1. Determine how each of you are wired. We all have different upbringings and life experiences. Many things can contribute to how we think about money. Things like your parent’s teachings, how you grew up, your first job, and your life lessons about money. Your great grandparent’s biases may even come into play. It is not right or wrong. We are who we are. The problem is that many times we are different than our partner and this can cause issues. The first step is to learn about how the person that you care about thinks about money. We have created a 7 question quiz with the help of some really smart people that may be able to help. We have narrowed down 3 “Money Mind® types”: Fear, Commitment and Happiness. A Fear based Money Mind® will tend to always want to save their money. A Commitment based Money Mind® gets pleasure giving the money to those that they care about. Finally, a Happiness based Money Mind® loves buying things and experiencing life. Many people have a combination of two or more but the point here is to understand how you and your spouse think about money. For example, I have seen couples with a Fear and Happiness Money Mind® butting heads on just about anything money. Why? Well, one person wants to save for the future and one wants to enjoy life. Neither person is wrong but without talking about the elephant in the room each will tend to lean further toward their own bias and this rarely ends up good.

You can take the Money Mind® test HERE. Why not take a minute for you and that person that you care about take the short quiz? Step one out of the way!

  1. Start being honest about everything. Once you have started a dialogue and understand that each of you may be different, fess up about your financial life. If you don’t feel you are understood or don’t feel supported by your partner, it is likely that you have started to “cheat” on them. You might be spending money that they don’t know about. You might be stashing dollars away for the future and keeping it a secret. You might even have a credit card that is known only to you.

My wife and I have a practice of having what we call “Safe Zone Conversations”. These are times that we plan ahead for that helps us to open up and be ourselves without judgement from the other person. The rules are fairly simple: take turns being honest, share your true thoughts and beliefs, and no judging allowed. We are who we are and cannot help that. This same concept can be used when sharing your thoughts…and mistakes…about money. Don’t hold anything back.

  1. Develop a joint vision for your future. I have found that if a couple cannot agree on where they want to go, or more often have not really defined what they want their future to look like, it may be impossible to be on the same “money” page. If you have a saver, or a Fear Money Mind®, and he or she is saving for retirement but their partner does not have a clear vision of what or when that will be, the non-saver might view that money as something they will never see again. How can they be motivated to save if they see it as throwing it away?

I suggest sitting down and creating a vision for what you want life to look like in the future. This is where a professional financial adviser can help. It can be hard to create your future life while staring at a blank sheet of paper. Start with your career. Think about your family. Discuss retirement dates. Throw in dreams like travel, second homes, and gifting. The sky is the limit as you dream about your future. You may not be able to achieve everything but if you don’t dream it you don’t stand a chance.

Once you have a vision for your future, get help putting some numbers to it. If you both can agree on a vision and be motivated by that future, it may become easier to agree on saving for that future. If you both can agree that it would be good to take some nice trips before retirement, you may be able to agree to spend a little more money today that what you have been used to. Are you following me? Let your vision guide the money decisions. This helps put you each on the same page even though your minds may be totally different.

Relationships are hard. We need every advantage we can get to help make them fulfilling and fun. You can move through these three steps this coming weekend. Why not take action so that money is a good topic in your house?

This blog post originally appeared in The Courier of Montgomery County.

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