As I concluded a program recently with an amazing couple, it reminded me just how much can be at stake when you’ve got 2 people (and sometimes more if children are involved) in a money conversation.
Most people aren’t necessarily familiar with what it is that gets in the way of having effective money conversations in a relationship (click here for prior post on this topic), let alone how to proactively build a mutual foundation for authenticity, honesty, and trust.
In working with couples, there is always the initial space that we create where they get to hear each other out. We get to understand how each partner grew up around money and how that impacts them, and the “baggage” that they bring into the relationship without even realizing it. There’s also an appreciation gained of each other’s “money type” and how that plays out in their lives (both individually and together as a couple).
And once we clear through the past, we’re ready to get started on building an amazing financial future – as a couple! In order to do that, I recommend 3 key steps to get started on building a strong, joint financial foundation:
- Approach money with a spirit of partnership – One of the biggest mistakes I see couples making is that one or the other of them is right about how to handle money. For the couples I work with who thrive, they make a concerted effort to explore what each of them has to offer regarding managing money, and each of them gets to be heard and contribute. As a couple, it’s a team game – and while not all team players are created with equal strengths and abilities, each player deserves to be part of the team and contribute to the financial partnership. So allow yourself to be friendly, fun, curious and inquisitive when it comes to how your partner interacts with money…not only is money a divine tool to support you in your life, it’s also an excellent teaching tool for you to learn about your loved ones and why they say and do what they do!
- Appreciate other dynamics at play in your relationship – While money is indeed its own unique entity, there are very often other social dynamics at play when it comes to building an authentic and honest financial partnership. While this may not apply to all couples (and in some couples it can be reversed, which is ok too), very often men are wired as “providers” and women are wired as “hunters/gatherers.” What does this mean exactly? In a nutshell and as it relates to money, men are generally wired to “bring home the bacon” and provide for their families. In today’s day and age, many women are often wired this way as they are committed to their careers and professional excellence. Unfortunately, while women’s liberation has been an incredibly important shift, sometimes it can lead to confusion as to who the provider is in a relationship (the man or the woman?). This confusion can then seep into who is accountable for the different aspects of managing the finances – who is the primary earner (or are both key earners for the household)? Who gets to manage the day-to-day finances – the primary earner or the one who works less hours or stays at home? Is one partner responsible for planning for the longer-term future (i.e. retirement)? Understanding up front the financial roles that each partner will accept responsibility for in the relationship is a key component to building a financially peaceful life as a couple.
- Align and plan how you will use your money with what matters to you both – Now that you’ve created a space of partnership and taken some time to determine the roles each of you will play in your financial lives, it’s time to put “pen to paper” as they say and develop a financial plan. Your mutual situation may require a plan that involves handling the day-to-day expenditures while getting out of debt and saving money. The key to any financial plan that supports a couple is that there is room in the plan for the unique needs and wants of both parties. And yes, this means that if your significant other spends money on something you just cannot understand, you may get to be quiet about it (provided that it’s not putting you in a place of financial hardship)! An effective financial plan will use money in a way that’s first and foremost aligned with the mutual goals of the couple (i.e. saving for a house, a new baby, college funds for children) while also incorporating a solid balance of fun and self-care for each partner.
With a spirit of partnership and mutual respect, designing a mutually beneficial financial future is an amazingly creative and loving process that can set a couple up for incredible success. Simply remember to be curious and inquisitive whenever your partner does something with money that you don’t understand – you’ll often be surprised what you can learn about your partner and they may have important input to contribute to an even more solid financial foundation for the both of you!