Money comes and money goes, but broken hearts can last forever. By sitting down and talking openly about your finances you may avert a potential disaster down the track. When all is said and done money isn’t as important as our relationships
– The Barefoot Investor (Scott Pape)
Money has long been a high contributor to strife relationships. Of the estimated 40% of marriages ending in divorce, finance issues must be up there with cheating partners as a reason. From personal experience and observation, the main problems are lack of communication and lack of understanding.
Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil
In the past my wife and I rarely – if ever – talked about money. When we were dating it wasn’t a big deal; I had my account and would pay for a night out and she would keep me fed for a few days and drive me here, there, and everywhere. Then we had our son and moved in together. I was paying almost all bills while the groceries were her responsibility, in addition to running her car.
On the surface things seemed fine, though a few times we’d turn to the other because we were short. The truth was we were both making a lot of mistakes and racking up more and more debt. Things compounded when we bought our house and started planning to get married. In the end I stumbled upon a load of stashed credit card statements which led to a “we need to talk” moment.
Looking back now, if we’d only been open and honest about what we were doing with money a lot earlier, a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided. So why didn’t we?
Most people don’t like talking about money with others, unless a) they absolutely have to, or b) they’re an arrogant, show-offy twat. Most people don’t want to be seen as the latter. When we talk to partners we might also fear “cheapening” the relationship by bringing money into it. In my case I was worried what my partner would think if she found out my level of debt.
In the end, this failure to talk about money stopped us from considering opening a joint account together. At the other end of the scale are couples who rush into opening an account together even though they have no idea of each others monetary habits. I’m saving joint accounts (and by extension, joint debt) for a later entry, so I don’t want to get into them too much here, but suffice to say that mixing both your cash together when you don’t talk openly about money is about as good an idea as the proverbial chocolate fireguard.
It’s often be said you don’t truly know someone until you’ve lived with them for a while, but if you’re thinking about moving in with your partner you absolutely must find out what sort of person they are with money.
Women Are From Venus, Men Want an iPod.
Next to communication, lack of understanding is the next main source of financial trouble between couples. By understanding, I mean the fundamental differences in attitudes to money.
It may be a gross generalisation, but men are programmed differently than women. This quote on Money Crashers summed it up beautifully. It certainly applies to my Wife and I:
…women could live with absolutely NO gadgets if they had to. Women would churn butter if it meant owning the house or car of their dreams. Men would rather buy a $200 gadget from sharper image to shave their face and iron their shirt at the same time. Okay, that would be weird, but you get my point.
Marriage and Money: Men and Women Have Different Financial Wants and Needs
I’ve previously mentioned I’m a gadget hound. I could happily live in a pretty crappy flat (and have done many a time) so long as I was able to afford what I desired whenever I wanted it. On the other hand, my Wife doesn’t understand this thinking. She would rather have the nicest house in the nicest area possible before anything else enters her head. The Money Crashers article mentions men want money so they can provide security and status (be it for partners or – my interpretation - themselves), while women just want to feel safe. I’d mostly agree with the thinking there. As said, this is a generalisation so if you disagree, let your feelings be heard in the comments area below.
If You Only Take One Thing From This Entry, Let it Be This:
Talk. Often and openly. Learn to understand how each of you perceive money, what it means to you, and – most importantly – what you do with it. If you don’t learn to communicate with and understand each other here, you’re heading for trouble somewhere down the line.