Friday, January 11, 2008

Do you and your spouse speak the same money language?

Sharing finances...probably the biggest cause of stress in relationships. Why? I would say the two key elements involved - communication and money.

When two people decide to start sharing their lives, money obviously is going to be a central focal point on which the relationship will hinge. If you have two savers, you'll probably be ok from the get go. Two spenders...not looking so good. A spender and a saver, here come the fireworks.

We are all raised with certain views on money. Combining those views with those of another can be a challenge. I'm a spender by nature, and my wife is a saver (she finally brought me to the light a few years back). I would spend, spend, spend, and tell her not worry about it, I had it covered (in credit card debt). When she found out we didn't have it, things were not happy in our household. Especially after I realized I had wiped out her $3000 savings account. Ouch! This caused some stress, to say the least. Ok, it caused a LOT of stress. Our first mistake was not communicating.

What we should have done, is sat down, and had a really thorough, and honest, discussion about each other's views on money. This was not only to find out where we differed, but where we agreed, so we could use that as a foundation of common ground to build on. From there, we really should have agreed, in writing, what we were going to with the money, and how it was spent. Again, this can lead to stress, but it's good, because it will help you work through it, and result in less stress later on in life. Some would say we, I say we had "intense fellowship".

Second, we needed to define what role money would have in our life. Would we master it, or would it master us? Sadly, I have to say, it mastered me most of my life. But when we started to communicate, and I realized I didn't know everything (my wife had been trying to tell me that for years now), especially about money, I realized I was a slave to the benjamin's (I know, a bad attempt at inserting pop culture references into my posts). That was my Spartacus moment. I rebelled against the role of master that money had taken, and led a financial revolution in my house. To quote Darth Vader, "I am the master now..."

Now, my wife and I talk about our finances more openly. We talk of ways and share ideas, on how to save more money, and get better deals. We set goals together, and encourage one another in accomplishing them. We sometimes compete to see who can find the better deal on something we need or want (after saving the cash to buy it, that is). It's actually become fun, and we have very little stress in our marriage, due to money. Why? Because we communicate.


mariam said...

Would you recommend having a joint account and keeping separate accounts also?

That's what I am thinking of doing with the BF. Just less stress that way or is that not in the spirit of sharing?

Steve said...

mariam, great question! First, I would honestly evaluate the relationship, and seriously consider each other's spending habits. Are both of you very good at keeping track of spending, and not spending more than you have? When my wife and I got married and joined our accounts, we ran into some bumps, because we would occasionally forget to write down purchases in our checkbook, and not know that the other had spent some money (that lead to some bounced checks, which added more fees).

I think if you have the three accounts (if I'm reading your post correctly), use the joint one as a "trial" account for several months, and see how good both of you are about keeping the balance current. Don't have anything major tied to it, as you test it out though (try it with blow money, or entertainment/spending money), that way if you won't miss a rent/mortgage payment, car payment, something big that could cause come unneeded stress. Hope that helps, if not let me know, I'll try to clarify a bit.