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Why Do We Fight About Money?

avoid money fights

No matter how your marriage started out, at some point the honeymoon is over and the two of you are dealing with the realities of the day to day. Many times that eye opener is disagreements about money.

And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

How We Picked Up Our Money Habits

Laurie Puhn, a couples meditator, commented that having arguments about finances can be expected with married couples. The truth is most of the time, it’s not necessarily the numbers, but it’s what we bring to the marriage that cause us to bicker and nitpick.

Our previous experiences with money have a huge impact on how we view it and how we act towards it.

Maybe we picked up unproductive habits because of our role models. If money was a tense topic growing up or you’ve seen the big issues side stepped to completely avoid fights than you may feel unprepared on how to best talk about it.

Differences in culture can be another source of tension. One of you may have family who expects you to take care of them when they older while the other was raise with the idea that each generation is self-sufficient.

Don’t forget we also have unique personalities. I can tell you that some of the traits that made me fall in love with my husband can also be some of the more frustrating ones to deal with when we have a disagreement.

His thoughtful and deliberate discussions become dragging his feet with decisions. (Or at least that’s how I feel in the moment :) )

This isn’t about making excuses, but about understanding where your spouse is coming from. Once you both see why your partner coming from a certain perspective, it can make it easier to work with them.

How Can We Talk About Money Better?

Having differences of opinions doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed ; how you communicate with one another can though. Misunderstandings can quickly snowball into arguments and shouting matches, depending on your personalities.

So just how you talk about money?

  • Write it down. Before you two get together to talk about your finances, make some time to jot down your thoughts and feelings about it. It can serve you in two ways – help you identify your end goal and release some of your emotions.
  • Choose to meet at a time and place that is relaxing for the both of you. Make the situation as comfortable as you can so they two of you are in a better mood to listen. You also might want to have a set time to start and finish so you don’t feel like this will go on forever.
  • Both sides need to talk. Let each of you have some uninterrupted time to express your thoughts and feelings about the situation. While the other one is talking, make sure you’re paying attention to what they are saying. Take notes if you have to. If you’re worried one about going over the limit, set a timer.
  • Find common ground. Once you both spoke about it, try to see if you can come to an agreement on something and work from there.
  • Break it down. If you’re still having trouble coming up with an overall plan for your goal, see if you can back it up a bit and agree on the first step.

Building a Better Marriage with Conversations

I think one way to overcome bad communication habits is by having positive models we can build from. One of my favorite podcasts to catch is Better Conversations on Money and Marriage. You get to hear Derek and Carrie discuss their individual and joint views on budgets, staying together during their own money crisis, and becoming parents.

The latest episode of the Couple Money Podcast goes into more detail if you’re interested.

I’d love to hear from you about how both of you handle financial disagreements. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

Photo Credit: Karsten Bitter

Want a Happier Marriage? Combine Bank Accounts

saving as a couple

There are strong feelings on the pros and cons of sharing checking and savings as a couple. The latest episode of the Couple Money Podcast shares some tips on how you can go about on combining your finances and how to start your first budget as a couple (you can listen to it below).

For now, though, I want to pitch to you how they can boost your marriage and your finances.

  •  Catch the podcast on iTunes: Simply click on this link and you’ll be taken to Couple Money’s page.
  • Listen on Stitcher: Please click here so you can catch all episodes.

Less Hassle with Bills

By combining our money into one pot, we can simply schedule our bills from a central location. Mortgage, utilities, and savings are scheduled and we only check on the accounts just to verify everything has been paid. Using an online bank like Capital One 360 has made it even simpler to stay on top of our finances.

More Transparency

Having joint checking and savings is handy for us because we both can see where we can improve on with our finances. It’s a safety net to protect both of us – two heads are better than one so we can catch any crazy double charges that may pop up from a bill. We can also bounce ideas off of each other on how to better optimize our system and save some money.

Makes You Face Issues Upfront

When you two share bank accounts, it also makes you more aware of the big issues in your marriage (money and otherwise). I know for some couples, that possibility alone seems to push them to separate accounts, but believe it or not, this can be a wonderful opportunity for your marriage. Having the money talk can be a turning point for the both of you.

Derek Olsen from Better Conversations on Money and Marriage made an insightful remark about  how joint accounts can help the two of you with your marriage:

Combining money within a marriage does not cause problems, it might uncover a few and dealing with them now is a good thing. Most problems are already there, not created. There is no sense in avoiding what is already there.

With financial problems being a huge factor with martial stress and divorces, its crucial to try and get things sorted out sooner rather than later.

Are Separate Accounts Bad?

Does that mean that individual accounts are toxic to your marriage? Should you close all of your individual checking and savings? My answer is – it depends on the two of you and your personal situation.

Personally we have checking accounts that we use for personal expenses like gifts, lunches out during the week, and small purchases here and there that make us happy. For my husband, it’s coffee visits and for me it’s usually books or something to read. That said, we do have access to one another’s account if we need to get to it and when we review our finances we have a clear picture of the totals in the accounts.

Thoughts on Joint Bank Accounts

Enough about us, I’d like to hear from you. How do you manage your finances? Do you combine most of your money? Why or why not?

Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

How to Talk About Money Without Starting a Fight

couple money talk

One of the most helpful things the two of you can do to strengthen your marriage and finances is sit down and be open with one another about your joint and individual finances. Unfortunately many couples allow their fears about how wrong it could go stop them from doing this.

This lack of communication can cause huge problems so if you haven’t already, make some time this week to discuss this with your husband or wife.

How do you get started? What should you discuss with the first talk? Here are ideas that I believe can help both of you be productive and reduce money arguments.

Be Upfront with Each Other with the Numbers

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to finances in a marriage. That means sharing all the relevant numbers and information with one another. Financial infidelity can be emotionally devastating to a marriage.

Though not the most pleasant of activities, both of you will need to review the debts you have on a regular basis. From college loans to car loans, credit cards and any other debt you have, it’s important that both of you know how much you owe.

This helps you create a realistic budget that will get you out of debt rather than having you two spin your financial wheels.

Create Goals Together

Okay so you know where you’re starting out from, but where are you two heading towards? When creating financial goals, start off with dreams. After all, money is simply a tool. You can use it to achieve your dreams or you can waste it. What do you two want?

You can start off by creating a list of goals you two wish to achieve in 1, 5, and 10 years. You two really need to think about what you value as individuals and as a couple.

  • Do you want to eventually own a house in the country or do you want a condo in the city?
  • Do you want to not lay roots and travel?
  • Do you like to have some gadgets or do you want to save to go have unique experiences?
  • Do either one of you want to start a business?
  • Do you guys want kids down the road?

Asking these questions can allow you to build something together instead of making it up as you go. You also learn about each of your money personalities. Use this opportunity as a way to talk about the differences up front.

Play to Your Financial Strengths

There are many aspects to managing your money: spending, investing, debt reduction, savings, budgeting, and more. Mostly you and your spouse will excel in a couple of those areas.

As a couple, determine what those areas are, assign roles and responsibilities, and encourage your spouse in his or her respective duties. My husband is great at finding the best deals on electronics. He does the research and stays alert for when the price is lower than expected. After we discuss the monthly budget, I take care of the execution of it. We review everything on a monthly basis.

Thoughts on Talking About Money

When did the two of you first start talking about money? How did it go? Any advice for the rest of us?

Photo Credit: David Armsler

Merging Finances: My Interview with Mint

couple money mint interview

As many readers know, I’ve recommended and used Mint to keep track our net worth on a month basis for a few years. It’s a wonderful and free tool that allows the two of you get all of your accounts organized easily in one spot. They recently asked me to do an interview and I was happy to say yes. The topic was something we cover here – merging finances as a couple.

We started off with why couples argue about money and went from there. Here’s a snippet:

What are some common reasons couples argue about money?

I think one big factor is that couples don’t really understand how their spouse relates to money. We say that someone is a spender and someone is a saver, but it’s deeper than that. We pretty much all spend and save – it’s just on different things. Most times it’s because of our personal experiences with money growing up and being on our own.

I think when you have an idea of the “why” behind each other’s spending, it’s easier to tackle what the issue is. But many times, we seem to be stuck on the surface level – what do you want to buy or spend our money on. It’s one thing to say, “Let’s get a house and save for retirement” and another to talk about why you have these goals. Do you eventually want to have your own business? Do you want to have kids? Do one or both of you want to cut back on work so you can stay at home with them?

Another factor is that we don’t want to be judged for choices that we have made. We all have some bad money habits to various degrees; it’s a part of learning, and for some of us, we’re still paying off those debts. Your Money or Your Life has a great phrase for that – make peace with your past. You two are now a team, and the goal is to help one another succeed and become stronger for it.

You can read the rest right on Mint. Besides my interview, there are several wonderful ones up so please check out the series!

Master Your Network & Survive a Layoff

Check your resume

Layoffs can not only wreck your finances, it can also be a huge emotional stress. While most of us cannot stop a layoff from happening, there are steps we can do to minimize its impact and increase our chances of finding more work.

That was the case Eric found himself in a few years ago. He found out that layoffs were coming when the his local news announced that his company was being bought.  Being familiar with the business, he knew he needed a plan to find another job.

He came on the Couple Money Podcast and took us through his process and how his well maintained network came through for him. Eric found a better position and $6,000 raise. If you haven’t met him or followed him on Narrow Bridge Finance, please do. I met him in Denver for a conference and he’s an all around good guy and hard worker. eric couple money podcast

Besides Eric’s extremely helpful advice, this week’s show also covers tips:

  • How you can polish up your resume
  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile
  • Stay in touch with your network

Should you be facing a layoff I also recommend a guide to help you engineer your layoff so you increase your chances of getting a severance package that you deserve.

You can listen to it or download right here, or get it on your favorite player.

  • Catch the podcast on iTunes: Simply click on this link and you’ll be taken to Couple Money’s page.
  • Listen on Stitcher: Please click here so you can catch all episodes.

If you enjoyed the podcast, could you please share this with your friend or leave a rating and review?

If you have any questions about this episode or ideas for future ones, please leave a comment. My goal to make this podcast both motivating and practical for couples looking to building their marriage and finances.

Thank you and take care!