One’s a saver, the other’s a spender. One would rather be at the bank; the other would rather be at the mall. How can financial advisers help couples who are money opposites? Try three stages of action.
Stage 1: Awareness
Sometimes we don’t realize the underlying money beliefs that drive our decisions. What money messages did each partner grow up with? Who in their lives influenced them when it came to handling money? What is the most important value that money helps each one achieve?
Stage 2: Communication
Now that the difference is on the table, how do conversations about it go? How well does each partner feel heard and understood? “Active listening” is a great tool to use at this point: Each one takes turn listening, mirroring, checking for understanding, and empathizing.
Stage 3: Negotiation
With enhanced understanding, the couple is better equipped to come to a mutually agreeable solution. Several years ago a couple I worked with debated whether they should be saving 10 or 20 percent of their income. Both busy, young, successful professionals, with the lower savings they could hire help at home for the house and lawn. But it was extremely important to one partner to be debt-free by age 40. After discussion, awareness, communication, and negotiation, they settled on saving 15 percent of their income, hiring some house help, and keeping their debt-free status as a goal, but not a rigid expectation.
Money is the third most frequent topic of marital arguments, after chores and children. Ironing out the wrinkles between people who are money opposites by discussing their behaviors and decisions can go a long way toward reaching financial goals with peace and harmony — whether those goals be at the mall, or the bank.