About eighteen years ago, Robert (my husband) and I made a vow before we got married that we would never argue about money. Eighteen years later, we have honored that vow. Our take on it was simple: arguing doesn’t change anything and it’s only trees! Now grant it, we were really young and we didn’t have any money anyway at that time, so it was easy. We DID however, have very candid, open and honest discussions during our dating period about finances. We came from two totally different backgrounds. His parents paid for everything for him. They paid 100% of all of his expenses. They paid for his college education, his cars, his clothes, everything. He had a job but he spent his money on whatever he wanted to (and most of the time it was me). On the other hand, I paid my own way through college by working THREE jobs and taking 23 credit hours a semester in college, I had student loans, a car loan, car insurance, rent to pay, utilities to pay, car repairs, several credit cards with maxed out balances, and was well on my way to perfecting the art of “check floating”. I remember the day I told him about all of my debt and expenses. It was a week or so after he asked me to marry him. I didn’t want to start off with him not knowing. Long story short, he paid off my Nordstrom’s credit card, my Discover and my Visa. He left the small one for me to deal with. It was a Mandee card and I can’t remember what the heck Mandee is today. Anyway, the only problem was, we never had a plan in place that prevented me from doing it again.
It took years of me educating myself on why I abused credit (which I go into in my series Knowing Your Financial Footprint© and Discovering Your Financial DNA in detail). Now, when I talk to couples about their financial destructive behaviors, I KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE what they are talking about. Trust me when I say, it’s not your forever. I am very empathetic towards the spouse with the issues, because that was me at one time or another. Maybe not the same exact issues, but we all end up with the same results if we decide to remain the same and not change. For years, and I AM NOT STRETCHING THE TRUTH, weekly, someone brings up the subject of them not getting along with their spouse because of money issues; WEEKLY. It never fails. I have had sooooo many conversations about this area that I could probably walk you through it in my sleep. At this point, my kids have heard me on the phone talking about this so much; THEY could walk you through it!
Fairly common disagreements occur on the regular basis in households across the globe daily about financial disagreements between people in relationships and marriage. It usually can be pinned down to narrow reasons, one of them being that the two people involved in the disagreement aren’t on the same page or speaking the same financial language. Women want security and men want provision and pleasure. One person is thinking that they have a shared financial goal of saving for a car or a new house or retirement or for the kid’s college education and the other spouse doesn’t see that picture at all. They see rims, sports cars, shoes, clothes, a little bling-bling, a new golf club set or a golf retreat with the boys, a big screen television, the newest iPhone or iPad, the Droid Bionic, and the list goes on and on.
To be honest, it’s not about the amount of money that was spent (most of the time). It’s the fact that couples have unspoken expectations and are not taking the time to communicate them or are afraid to communicate them. Yelling and fussing is not an effective way of communicating. You need to get it straight before, during and after the first date. Financial harmony in marriage is a must. Statistics show that the number one reason for divorce is financial incompatibility.
Sometimes, it is the clashing of financial DNA, clashing styles, different upbringing, separate visions and I have found that most of the time, one person is so grounded in their own financial views that they can’t see that their mate/spouse/significant other simply has a different perspective based off of their experiences and past family financial radars. Sometimes the cause of financial friction is the “blind spots” in communication. Issues that you didn’t address before you said “I DO”. Issues like asking “How much do you make, gross income and net income”; “how much do you own in secured and unsecured debt”; ”what’s your current credit score?”; “do you owe back taxes or better yet, do you even file your taxes on time?”; “Do you plan on working once we get married or stay at home?”.
The three main reasons for financial disharmony can be traced to these areas:
3. Family DNA
The Big Baller, Shot Caller Syndrome – this age old argument centers around a simple dispute: one person wants to spend every chance they get and the other person doesn’t. One person will spend the bill money and the other person is sitting around worrying themselves how stuff is going to get paid.
Plastic Pretend Money – this is when one spouse thinks the plastic is king (the saying is really CASH IS KING, not plastic). One spouse has been whipping out the plastic credit card like he is Carlos Slim Helu (the world’s wealthiest man) and can write a check at the end of the month to pay for all the purchases he made on the credit card. The only problem is, he can’t. And what’s worse is when the other spouse doesn’t know all this stuff was purchased and opens up the credit card bill and goes bananas.
Keeping Up with Hollywood (not the Jones because the Jones are in a recession. They got a predatory home loan and their home is in foreclosure, their cars have been repossessed, they have bad credit now and they can no longer pretend they have money). Just because your favorite Hollywood star has Christian Louboutin shoes on doesn’t mean you have to get them (especially when your financial house is not in order), right now. This hyper-consumer attitude has caused you to be behind the eight ball in wealth accumulation. Virtual prosperity will “jack you” every time. You don’t need a new outfit for every function you attend.
Sea of Debt – The time was never right for you to discuss your financial footprint to your spouse, now you can no longer hide. There is no mention of the Macy’s charge card being maxed out or the student loans that can’t be deferred anymore (from college that you never graduated from). Your hiding bills in the trash can, having them delivered to your job so your spouse won’t find out; or you get married and your mail still goes to your parent’s house because you don’t want your spouse to see all the debt you have. When will the time be right? NOW is the answer if this is you.
Trust me, I could go on and on about these lack of communication areas. I have heard so many stories over the years, but guess what? It’s not your forever and seasons DO change.
It’s time to get real with your financial situation. We need to just go beyond looking at the practical stuff with our finances. We need to look at all the levels of money (the emotional level, the spiritual level, the practical level and the cultural level). You must be willing to reposition yourself to go from whatever level you are on with your finances to the next level. Levels change and there is ALWAYS a new level to go to. It doesn’t matter to me about the amount of money you have coming in. It’s what you do with it and how much you have left over that matters, and if you actually put that you have left over to work for you.
Financial synergy is possible in your relationships. Synergy doesn’t just happen; it is a process, and it requires ACTION on your part. You have to participate in your own rescue!
5 Reasons Couples Argue Over Finances
1. Failure to communicate – (your yelling at him for purchasing a new game system or rims is not communication)
2. Dishonesty – you cannot move forward in building your financial legacy when you are hiding things from your spouse. It’s challenging to come up with a financial spending plan that works if all the pieces of the puzzle are not put together and you have “hidden” bills that the other spouse doesn’t know about. Most of the time, we hide things when fear is present. You were not born to live in fear. Just open up and be honest so you can conquer this together. Love covers all and that includes your debt and credit card bills!
3. Unclear goals or lack of goals – If you get paid next week, do you even know who gets paid what? How is your money being disbursed, or do you just pay stuff whenever? What is your plan? Do you know how much debt you owe? Do you have a plan to pay if off? Is the plan written down?
4. Lack of financial standards (stewardship) – Which spouse has the responsibility for your monthly spending plan or do you even have one? How do you plan for family vacations? Do you have regular financial meeting in your home to discuss your bank balances, bills, and spending patterns? How do you account for debit or credit card purchases or ATM transactions? (or do you account for them at all?) Is there a designated place for your bills or are they all over the place? If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. You cannot have good financial stewardship without having good financial standards.
5. Lack of Trust – no one wants to come to you and be transparent if you are going to rake them over the coals for making a mistake, or you are so controlling they can’t even buy a piece of candy without you acting like King Kong. You should make your heart a safe place for your spouse to openly discuss shortcomings with you. If you are the spouse that is constantly hollering about your spouses’ financial mistakes and you make them feel less than human, then you need to work on THAT ISSUE first. If you are the spouse hiding stuff because you feel like they will judge you or think less of you, then you have to trust that your spouse loves you enough to work through your financial challenges. It’s only money! Paper! Trees!
How do you bring synergy to your financial house?
1. You have to communicate. Sit down and discuss how much each spouse makes in salary. Discuss all income. Discuss the household income AND debt, and monthly expenses too. Proverbs 27:23 says to know the state of all of your affairs
2. You have to be honest. Get a copy of your credit report so you can see everything in one place.
3. Come up with a goal on how you will pay stuff off. Don’t just accept the terms the bank gives you. There are only TWO ways that you can change your financial situation: DECREASE YOUR EXPENSES OR INCREASE YOUR INCOME. Decide together which road you will take. Come up with a goal of how much money you want to have in savings and work toward it. Come up with a plan to learn about investments.
4. Develop some financial standards in your home. My husband and I have a set dollar amount that we will not spend without checking with the other person. The amount has to be agreeable to BOTH, you and your spouse. In addition to this standard, if we can’t come to an agreement, we just don’t purchase it. It’s not that serious for us to argue over. Now, there have been times when I STRONGLY wanted to purchase something (and it’s usually a high price item for my kids, and he doesn’t want to purchase it at that time, then I just come up with a plan to pay for it, I just increase my income- that’s another ezine article).
5. STOP FIGHTING! – fussing over money doesn’t make it just appear. You have to evaluate your expectations and weigh if they are even practical for your family at this time. Your expectations are just that: YOUR EXPECTATIONS. They might not be your spouses’ expectations.
In closing, Hill Harper said, and I agree, that “building true wealth is an individual journey. Much like embarking on a train trip, we all start where we are RIGHT NOW, and we have a desired destination. The more clarity we have about where we’re starting from, and where we want to go, the higher the likelihood that we will arrive at our desired end point”. You have to find out what works for your household. There is no perfect ONE SET of rules.
Thanks for reading, and remember “Whoever writes the check controls the flow”