Money is an important topic in relationships, no matter if your Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon and richest person in the world), or someone barely able to scrape enough dollars together for their next meal. Personal finances and money spending habits are one of the most widely misunderstood points in our relationships.
The Role Money can Play
We all know that money is important because, in almost any situation in today’s consumer culture, money is what is used to buy or sell something. And still, it is a topic that can bring emotions to the forefront of a relationship faster than almost any other topic.
If you don’t believe us just look at divorce statistics. Money is cited as being the second most common reason for divorce, trailing infidelity. (10 most common reasons for divorce)
When looking at people in relationships or marriages, 34% believed it was their spouse who spent the most, and only 13% believed they were the culprit. 1 in 5 (or 20%) Americans said they have spent more than $500 without consulting their significant other. To top that off, 6% keep secret accounts and credit cards from their significant others.
Money doesn’t only cause strain on romantic relationships and marriages. It can also cause significant strain on family dynamics between parents, children, and siblings.
There are many stories about one sibling inheriting more money than another, and it can cause resentment between siblings and or children/parents. Or there is the case where children expected their parents were going to leave a bigger legacy behind than they did, leaving nothing but feelings of resentment.
Even though money is theoretically just a piece of paper, there is an immense amount of emotion tied to it. It is the way we account for our hard work.
Ultimately, navigating money in relationships comes down to effectively communicating our wishes and desires.
How do we talk to our loved ones about this seemingly elusive topic? Here are some tips:
Reflect on spouses/partners money background
Before you actually begin the conversation with your loved ones, think about their money background. What was the financial situation in the house they grew up in (wealth or scarcity)? Was finance regularly discussed in the home in detail, or at all?
Having a potential understanding of the way they view money will be helpful, but don’t make assumptions about their points of view. Ask them why money is important to them and how they view it.
Acknowledge emotions and awkwardness
When you start the conversation, it is important to be aware that emotions are attached to money and conversations could get awkward.
Conversations about money are never solely about money, a lot of deep seeded and underlying beliefs and values will rise to the surface when these conversations happen. It is important to acknowledge these before they happen to prevent any surprises.
Often people are hostile towards conversations about finance, so it always helps to look back at times when money played a happy or rewarding role. Reflecting back on times like these helps to show that not all conversations regarding finance have to be dreaded and negative.
It is important to make sure everyone is on the same page when thinking about goals and expectations. People might be treating finances differently because their future financial expectations are different. Understanding someone’s goals and expectations can also help a person understand why their actions and spending/saving habits are so different.
Some guiding questions could be the following: How do you define what it would take for you to feel financially secure? How do you feel about giving to charities or to help friends and family? Does debt make you uncomfortable, if so, how much debt? What lifestyle do you project having in five years?
Talk value not money
People value things differently. Let’s say I buy a new golf set for 50% off and it only costs me $500. I would say that is a great deal and potentially worth the money. For someone who never golfs, that might be a frivolous purchase carrying very little value.
It is important to know what people value and why they value it. If you value something in particular, make sure you can articulate why you value it. You don’t have to agree with everyone on the value of something but understanding what they value and why can go a long way.
Don’t make it a big deal
Don’t wait until you are irritated or annoyed to have a conversation about a purchase. Talking about money every day helps assure that it doesn’t turn into a big deal. It becomes a big deal when we hide things and do not discuss money.
Be 100% honest. Lying or hiding purchases and money from each other is a slippery slope. A slope that is traveled by many people each and every day. Agree to be honest and disclose all details with each other from the start.
Develop a system
Lastly, make a system. This might mean making a budget and tracking your cash flow (how much is coming in and going out and where it is going). It might mean delegating jobs, who’s in charge of grocery shopping? Who’s the one paying the mortgage and car loan? It is important that everyone understand their monthly expenses. If you know how much you can actually afford each month, it is a lot easier to live within your means.
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Disclaimer: This Forbes Wealth Blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, legal, or tax advice of any kind. Please consult your legal, accounting, tax, investment, banking, and life insurance professionals to get precise advice relating to your particular situation before acting upon any strategy.