ADMIT IT. There are times when throwing your significant other overboard is an attractive alternative to getting an agreement on money matters. Even the most savvy financial advisors (ahem…) OCCASIONALLY fight with their spouses about spending. Or not spending.
So what’s an otherwise happy couple to do? Here are 5 Tips and tricks gleaned from lots of reading, lots of listening and an expert or two:
Step #1: Know who you are. Are you the SPENDER or the SAVER in the relationship? Just acknowledging your role ahead of time can diffuse quite a few arguments. It’s no fun calling someone a spendthrift in the heat of battle if they’ve already admitted to being a shopaholic.
Step #2: Remember that you are a team, focused on the same end goal. How you think you should get there might be different, but presumably you both want the same “big picture” – even if the only goal you can agree on right now is to “STAY ALIVE”. Reminding each other of the end goal occasionally helps keep the current conversation on track and focused toward solutions not accusations.
Step #3: Choose the right time of day for discussions about money. Not a morning person? Too much wine over dinner? If you can, agree ahead of time that you will always discuss money matters when you can both focus and be reasonable. As strange as it may sound, more than one couple have told me that, for sticky matters, they start the conversation via email when both are at work. It forces them to be civil, concise and objective. This seems to work especially well when one party is particularly overbearing in a face-to-face setting.
Step #4: You don’t have to do everything together. Yes, it makes sense to discuss and agree on big-ticket items, but divide and conquer works equally well. I am convinced that the only reason I am still speaking to my husband is because we have separate bank accounts and separate credit cards. We divide up the money and the bills and we both end up with our own small slush fund for personal spending. Others set a dollar limit for discretionary items. As long as it’s under $500 or some other agreed-upon amount, no one has to get “permission” first.
Step #5: Don’t be afraid to get third-party help. Whether it’s accumulating debt, an inheritance from Aunt Millie or arguing about a retirement date, sometimes it helps to get an objective expert to arbitrate. There are therapists and marriage counselors who specialize in helping couples sort through their issues with money (be prepared, though – you may discover your money issues stem from other issues that require more counseling). Not ready for marriage counseling? There are many financial advisors who can provide that objectivity that may be lacking in your decision-making.
Need Help Getting Started? Check out this exercise from Ohio State University’s Home & Away Series: http://tiny.cc/STZdd.
What are you & your partner doing to keep the canoe moving downstream?