Many of us will celebrate Valentine’s Day with our spouses, partners, and friends this week. At Blue Trust, we want to join the celebration by providing you with some critical, often overlooked, counsel on money and relationships derived from the many conversations we’ve had with our clients on the topic. This article includes relational questions to help you explore and discuss your motivations around money and gain a better understanding of your unique money personality.
Awareness around your finances and how you like to personally handle money is helpful whether you are in a relationship or not. But if you are in a relationship, knowing your unique money personality can help you build a strong foundation for aligning with your partner on money issues. With understanding comes empathy, and empathy is a key ingredient for intimacy.
Understand the mindset you had about money before marriage.
How your family handled money when you were young shapes how you handle it, think about it, and value it as an adult. We tend to either mimic their behavior or rebel against it. To create a foundation of financial intimacy with your spouse, you both need to think about your “money history” in order to successfully cover this ground together.
- What was money like growing up? Plentiful or scarce?
- Did your parents talk about it openly or was it taboo? Democratic or dictatorial?
- Did it create anxiety or opportunity?
- What memory about money in your family first comes to mind? Why?
Answers to these questions undoubtedly impact the financial ground you walk in the future, even if your childhood was 40-50 years ago!
Embrace your unique money personality.
Of course, your family growing up is not the only influencing factor on how you handle money today. You may, in fact, be very different from siblings who grew up next to you in the same home. Understanding, perhaps even labeling, your unique money personality may help both you and your spouse. Consider the words below that apply to you (and your spouse):
I am a: Saver | Spender
As it relates to the future, I am: Optimistic | Pessimistic | Fearful
When I make financial decisions, I tend to be: Engaged | Disconnected | Anxious
Take inventory of the inner motivations that drive your outward decisions. What are you REALLY hoping to get from your money?
- Comfort (striving to make life easier, more convenient, or conflict-free)?
- Control (trying to arrange the life you choose or controlling the outcomes)?
- Approval (influencing others to think better of you in some way)?
- Security (protecting yourself or loved ones from future risks, making life safer)?
- Independence (attempting to be self-reliant, not beholden to anyone)?
- Image (managing how others see and experience you)?
Identifying these and sharing them with your spouse will feel difficult and vulnerable, but you will build an intimacy that allows you to discuss differences and make decisions in light of your natural wiring, personalities, and experiences. It helps eliminate the perceived (or real) condemnation that comes in the financial decision-making process, allowing you to navigate financial terrain as a team.
Know the money triggers that exist in every marriage.
What creates your worst relational experiences around money? Here are some common triggers:
- Reviewing the monthly credit card statement
- A declining savings or investment account balance
- Your spouse suggesting, “We need a budget”
- Disagreements on giving – to whom and how much – including helping children
- What to do with unexpected income
- Spending decisions on big-ticket items or vacations
In addition to knowing your spouse’s triggers, ask your spouse to describe your triggers. You’ll see how easy it is for conflict to surface. Perhaps you watched your parents make poor spending decisions, and now you have internalized spending as “bad.” If your spouse had parents who were overly focused on saving everything, he or she may deeply value spending to create family experiences. A desire to save or spend isn’t bad, yet conflict becomes the natural result.
Share passions and goals – and stay on the same page.
Shared passions, goals, and desires are undoubtedly part of what drew you into marriage. Building financial intimacy enables you to pursue these passions because you both believe they make a difference in the world and the kingdom in which you live. As powerful as these shared objectives are, they are routinely forgotten or displaced in the distractions of the day (or even months and years). We all need to be reminded of them at times by a trusted friend, a parent, a child, or an advisor.
Regardless of your relational intimacy, you cannot make joint financial decisions without critical facts and details. Frequent “check-ins” along your financial journey facilitate communication and avoid anxiety build up. Don’t just let savings drive your decisions; have a shared spending plan. Stick to basic ground rules of engagement for financial discussions and disagreements. A healthy financial relationship requires the same disciplines as any other relationship – combined with the added financial complexity.
Remember, nearly every couple has money drama (even after 50 years)! But ultimately, money is a divinely-given tool intended to be used for God-given purposes. One of the greatest purposes this tool can serve is to help you solidify your intimacy as a couple. We encourage you to choose to use it for this.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how we serve couples, individuals, and families, please reach out to us at 800.987.2987 or email email@example.com.