A couple’s relationship is shaped by love and mutual understanding, but handling money is also one of the components the relationship is comprised of. More separations are driven by money problems than any other factor, including conflicts about parenting, sexual relations, time apart, household responsibilities, family and/or friends, irritating habits and unmet expectations.
Psychologists say that how a couple decides to deal with money problems in a marriage will determine whether those problems will have a negative or positive effect on marriage. Often the problem has to do with a lack of understanding about our partner’s and our own money personality.
Factors Influencing Money Personalities
Money personalities are formed as a result of our inherent temperament, belief systems modeling our behaviors and attitudes, and the signals we may have consciously or sub-consciously received from our parents’ behavior towards money. Developed from childhood influences and our own experiences, our money personalities can be categorized most basically as spenders, hoarders, money worriers, money avoiders (who prefer not to know), money monks (who believe you should be doing most if not all things yourself), money amassers (those who save and invest), risk-takers, risk-avoiders, and money mergers and money separatists.
The money personalities we develop impact how we perceive, utilize and save money.
Among couples, common combinations include: hoarders and spenders, worriers and avoiders, a money monk and amasser, a risk taker and risk avoider, and money mergers and separatists (who disagree about whether to have joint or separate accounts). The clash of money personalities that ensues often hurts feelings and bruises egos. The altercations can be frequent depending on the extent to which we demonstrate and apply our money personalities in the real world. So, hoarders may question why their spender spouses cannot be more pragmatic and realistic with their spending habits and spenders may feel frustrated that their hoarder partners are inconsiderate of their needs.
To make the exasperation worse, there’s often a lack of understanding that men and women typically tend to have different outlooks about money. For instance, many men, especially those who grew up in traditional families as the sole breadwinner, may not think anything of buying a television set or car without first consulting their partner, while more women are likely to want to discuss big purchases together first and buy thereafter. Women are also more commonly engaged and invested in the shopping experience while men are more likely to buy a specific item and leave the store. Some have referred to men as shopping hunters and women as shopping gatherers, though this could be linked to historical differences in their roles and access to money. Generally, women are often expected to be assisted with money problem matters while men believe they must be discreet about their financial difficulties and solve them on their own.
How can Couples have Fewer or No Money Fights?
The first step is to identify the money personalities embedded in a couple. Without this understanding, it is difficult to empathize with your partner, accept his or her behaviors and outbursts (or a lack of them) as an extension of their money personality. For instance, savers are generally more reserved while spenders may be less constrained. Recognizing these traits can help in calming tensions and preventing small arguments from blowing out of proportion. Just make sure your priorities/goals related to finances are close to the same and negotiated.
It is also important that partners communicate openly about what they like and dislike about each other’s money personalities and strategize to work together for amicable solutions. Couples can make an effort to try to learn the intentions of the other before judging and therefore make informed money decisions that are sensitive to each other’s mutual needs. Greater success for couples could also be achieved where more men encourage their partners to participate in the household finances (or vice versa) and offer help through it, while more women need to let their partners know that they wish to be consulted on household, luxury, investment or insurance related purchases.
For new couples, it is best not to merge finances too quickly, including right after or just before living together or getting married. Conflicts can arise when opposing money personalities tie their spending habits to a shared pool. Instead, merging most of the common assets for savings, investments and spending, and separating the rest into two to serve unique spending habits and needs, can avoid conflict. When a couple does begin to merge its finances, it may be best to permanently leave a few assets separate or at least maintain separate accounts for discretionary spending so that each person can use their amount as desired and avoid conflict.
Turning to professional help for guidance can also help couples reduce their conflict about how they manage money. A mortgage specialist can help you obtain pre-approval before committing to purchase a home and a financial advisor can quote life insurance for you before children are born and help you understand how much you need to set aside if you are to fund your children’s education or your retirement.
Similarly, talking with a debt/credit counsellor or professional bankruptcy trustee can help you to see the spending patterns that are causing relationship and financial overload and help you arrive at new money strategies or resolution. At A.C. Waring & Associates Inc., we can provide credit counselling and debt solutions. Come in and see us together at First Edmonton Place in Edmonton, Alberta. Contact us at 780-424-9944 or 1-800-463-3328 today to set up an appointment.