Money and Marriage

Has your net worth declined or increased over the last few years? Have you discussed your losses or gains with your spouse or partner? Does he or she have a clear picture of the present state of your finances, the location of your assets, and your long-term financial goals?

Often the primary breadwinner oversees the finances. The other partner may remain blissfully unaware of wavering financial stability.

Unfortunately, this does a disservice to the passive partner. It can also prevent a relationship from attaining its full potential.

Those who don’t get involved may wake up one day and find themselves at a terrible loss. They won’t know where their assets are, if they have enough money, or whether it’s properly invested.

Most financial advisers stress the importance of having both spouses involved in the planning process. This may not be easy since each spouse brings a different “money personality” to the planning partnership.

Kathleen Gurney, author of the book Your Money Personality; What It Is and How You Can Profit From It, believes we each have a financial or money self. It is an integral part of our behavior and influences the way we interact with money. Most of us fail to recognize how deeply our financial personality impacts our habits and affects the degree of satisfaction we get from money. It influences the way in which we earn, spend and save money.

Your distinct money personality is an amalgam of individual traits. Your comfort with risk-taking is an important component. So, too, are traits such as the desire for power, self-determination and involvement, anxiety, contentment, reflectivity and trust in others.

Disagreement over money is one of the more common causes of marital strife. The big problem is not always a shortage of money. Many times it boils down to differences in money personalities and attitudes about spending. The classic is the marriage between the “saver” and “spender.” How familiar are complaints like these: “My wife has no concept of money. She spends to make herself feel better,” and, “He’s got no idea of how much money it takes to run the family or how much the kids’ music lessons and clothes cost.”

As with any relationship, communication is the key. Here are some ideas on how to foster a more equal and richer financial partnership. For those in budding relationships, start your money discussions early.

  • Take time to discuss your attitudes about saving and spending with your partner. It’s useful for each of you to review your personal money family history. Examine the attitudes of your parents toward money. Often it will help you understand your own reactions. Try to identify your individual money personalities.
  • Talk regularly about financial matters, preferably at a time when money decisions are not pressing. Consider setting up monthly meetings to discuss major goals and budgeting, and to review past financial decisions.
  • You and your partner should keep track of where the money is going. Some couples alternate the responsibility for paying bills. Others delegate the job to one partner. However, each partner should feel he or she has access to money and knowledge of their financial status.
  • Start the process of joint financial goal setting. Agree on a few goals for the next six months and put them in writing. If you write them down, you’ll be more committed to them.

We cannot stop the stock market from fluctuating. We can, however, take simple measures to try to keep it from undermining both our portfolios and our relationships.

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