Couple's Finance: The Peaks and Valleys From a Single Dude Consulting Married Couples and Partners
Hear me out!
In a recent study conducted by TD Ameritrade, roughly 41% of divorces in the United States are due to disagreements surrounding money. That's pretty scary considering that the vast majority of the decisions you and your S.O.-- significant other, which is apparently what you are supposed to call couples now-a-days-- make, involves money.
He married her because she’s always got a smile on her face and lights up every room. She married him because he has always been able to make her laugh and see the good in things, even when times are tough. However, her Amazon tab at the end of each month and his “toys” in the garage make them want to strangle each other!
Perhaps what makes people most unique is their individual personalities. It’s what people find attractive about someone as they seek a permanent partner. Your money personality is important not only for your partner to know, but you to know and understand as well.
You’ve heard of love languages, right?
Words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving/giving gifts. And without getting my crystals out and telling you that I'm a Taurus and could never marry a Pisces because our moon and starts don't align, or whatever the hell all of that even means, hear me out.
Money languages are very similar! The saver, the investor, the debt eliminator, the thrifter, the over-spender, etc. Understanding your partner’s personality and not-yet-confirmed money language is important! Imagine the debt eliminator and over-spender being tied together in marriage—yikes! Yet it happens every day, but I digress…
As someone who has been in relationships with true narcissists, I promise you this is far more than what the title says. Obviously being involved with any narcissist is difficult, but God forbid you marry one and they are the breadwinner—that’s narcissist fuel to the fire.
The breadwinner in any relationship will naturally have a sense of superiority—this is human nature. However, if it becomes a regular thing to bring up the fact that they are the breadwinner and harmful narcissistic patterns form, it’s probably time to either move on from this relationship or find a way to edify the value that is brought from the non-breadwinner and recognize the narcissistic behavior for what it is.
Because everyone has their own money personality, the approach to eliminating debt and/or accumulating debt will also be different. One partner in the relationship may have loads of credit card debt because they have a spending problem. The other may have a host of student loan debt because of their advanced schooling. One may see no problem with financing certain things. While the other may really be bothered by putting more debt onto the table.
Whatever the case may be, it’s best to… drumroll please…
Talk about it! I know, crazy, right?
*** Fun fact, if you’re in these states: Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and/or Wisconsin, all debt is shared debt when you are married. Meaning, the debt incurred before marriage will likely not be “your” debt, but any debt taken after you say, “I do,” is shared debt, whether it’s applied individually or not.
Budgeting is King
One of the common denominators I’ve seen when it comes to married couples is the clear designation of CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and COO (Chief Operating Officer). One partner will handle the bills, decide if they “have enough” for _________, and usually be the bearer of bad news when something the other person wants, just won’t fit the budget this month. The other is (again, in most cases, not all), the breadwinner, the spender, and the one most clueless about where the money is going.
Don’t get it twisted—the biggest businesses in the world budget, why shouldn’t you?
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Budgeting isn’t the sexiest form of money management but believe me when I say this: no matter how much money you make or how well you think you’re doing-- you need to constantly be adhering to and making adjustments to your budget.
Most importantly, do it together. Have a mine, yours, ours approach to budgeting and you’ll avoid those arguments about money that wouldn’t have happened had you just planned better, together.
Kids Catch Everything
Set good examples by how you approach your money. You wouldn’t have your children sit in on a heated yelling match between you two, why would you demonstrate horrible money practices? How you do anything is how you do everything, in this example.
Most money habits are learned and adopted through generational approaches—much like political affiliations, what food you eat, how regularly you exercise, you name it. Children see everything and generally adopt your same habits. Make sure it’s a great example!
Ego, Empathy, and Encouragement
Damn, I really should’ve just been a couple’s councilor. These are my three “E’s” for success in literally any endeavor, but perhaps the most difficult endeavor anyone can ever have, partnership.
Ego will cloud your judgement and replace what matters with what doesn’t in basically everything you do. So, it’s no surprise that as it pertains to money, ego plays a pretty big role. Add another person to that equation, with their own belief systems and natural human flaws and if ego isn’t checked from time to time, it will inevitably cause riffs in said relationship.
Recognize your ego, know how to handle it, and go from there.
The raw definition of empathy is the ability to try understanding what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in that place. It isn't outside the realm of possibility that empathy plays a crucial role in relationships, specifically when the conversation is money.
I don’t personally believe that you can ever fully understand anyone. Nor can you really get a grasp on what their experiences are, how they feel, what they are thinking, etc. But in all honesty, that’s a bit of the spice of life—the unknown to the fullest degree. However, if you are having intense money discussions or having to make big decisions, practicing empathy toward your partner will allow you to arrive at the most-sound decision when there are two separate minds potentially wanting two separate things, but needing to find middle ground nonetheless.
Encouragement. Genuine, real, raw, unwavering encouragement toward what your partner ultimately wants. I’d assume it’s not always easy, but in order to achieve what you’re collectively wanting to achieve, there has to be a level of encouragement for the other.
Just as long as it’s real, genuine encouragement, you’ll likely have total transparency and move forward, together.
Look, I’m a single dude and have been for a while now. When it comes to understanding how hard marriage or legitimate partnership is, I have zero context whatsoever.
That being said, I’ve consulted with hundreds of clients and seen literally every possible financial situation you can think of. If the couples I talked to then would read this article now, they’d be able to point toward at least two to three of the points I made and say, “yep, that’s our problem right there.” I only come from where I am and what I’ve experienced.
The biggest decisions in your life will likely involve relatively important financial decisions and outcomes as well. Make it easier on yourself by celebrating your peaks and pinpointing the valleys of your collective financials.
If not for you, for your partner and family(s).