"Financial Planning ... it's not always about money."

Surprising Ways Spouses And Partners See Money Differently

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David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
Phone : (858) 345-1001
Schedule a Meeting

February is the month for celebrating Valentine’s Day, love, and relationships. What could possibly disrupt our feelings of love? Money is often a trigger of conflict in relationships. Some of us did not grow up learning about money in school or in our households. Often, this leads to widely differing opinions about saving, spending, and planning. Therefore, learning how to communicate about money is critical to a healthy relationship with your partner.


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Larry Burkett, a noted financial author, says, “Money is either the best or worst area of communication in our marriages.” We’ve seen that arguments about money are a leading cause of conflict in households and can often lead to a breakup of relationships. So, if you’ve had these conflicts, this is normal! This is an opportunity to improve your relationship by working together, resulting in both parties feeling understood and agreeing on financial goals. If money has been a source of arguments in a relationship, it is easy to completely ignore the subject all together. However, this doesn’t help couples build financial peace and independence. 

Let's discuss how each spouse or partner may see money differently and some simple ways to create momentum with your finances. The goal is to strengthen your relationship.

Everyone views money differently and it is largely because we each process problems and opportunities from different vantage points – this is a good thing! One partner may feel like they can take more risks with their investments and may not like to save for emergencies. They could be using money as a scorecard. When they are faced with financial struggles, it often affects their self-esteem. The other partner may see money as more of a security issue and tend to be conservative in their investments. This person is often more cautious and wants to save for a rainy day. Relationship problems occur when one person ignores the input of the other or one person doesn’t want to participate in financial dealings altogether. These problems do not occur when the partners use their different vantage points to prepare an agreed upon plan that has the potential to be stronger and more effective than one that either person could achieve individually.

Marriage is a partnership. Both parties need to be involved in the finances. As you work on your plan together, you will most likely see the power of being aligned with each other regarding your financial goals. Conversations with your partner about money must start way before problems occur. When your checking account is overdrawn, or when you have a financial emergency, that is not the best time to start these conversations.

Instead, it may help to be proactive by scheduling a financial date with your partner. It can be helpful to   start by reviewing both of your money stories. A money story is the past experiences you’ve had with money and how these experiences have shaped you, whether good or bad. Our current behaviors, fears and goals stem from this money mindset, which is often established at a young age.

A few questions to ask on your date include: What is your earliest memory about money? What did you learn as a child concerning money? What worries do you have about running out of money? When we can share and discuss these experiences with our partner, it brings awareness, perspective and often empathy for one another. These conversations about money should be an ongoing, open dialogue. Having regular financial dates with your partner can help build a money plan and create systems to harness the power of each other’s strengths. This can help you reach your financial goals together!

Don’t go it alone if you need help. In our industry, we find ourselves not only giving financial and investment advice, but also helping to facilitate essential conversations between partners. A qualified financial advisor or coach can help facilitate conversations with your partner if there is an impasse in moving forward. We have found that a third-party can help ask the right questions and create momentum on the journey towards your short-term and long-term financial goals.

By having these essential conversations, the focus of all your Februarys can now be about love and relationships. So get your financial date on the calendar now!

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This Forbes article was legally licensed through AdvisorStream.

David M. Brenner profile photo

David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
Phone : (858) 345-1001
Schedule a Meeting