When my husband and I got engaged five years ago, one of my biggest concerns was how we would handle money. When it came to finances we never seemed to be on the same page. He enjoyed spending money and I couldn’t wait to give money away. He liked investing money in more expensive items and hobbies, while I enjoyed living frugally and struggled to spend money on myself. We did have common dreams and goals for our marriage — like buying a house and traveling the world — but I wasn’t sure how we’d ever make these dreams a reality when our approach to money seemed so different.
Throughout our engagement and the early years of our marriage, my husband and I had a lot of tough conversations about money. We tried a lot of things that didn’t work. We talked about money only when we had a problem, which always seemed to lead to an argument. I decided to handle all of our money on my own, leaving my husband disconnected from our finances.
It was only when we decided to come together, acknowledging our own financial strengths and growth areas, that things began to change for us. We started to listen closely and learn from one another. We got crystal clear on our values, dreams, and goals as a couple, so we could pursue them together.
Over the last four years we’ve learned a lot ... much of it the hard way. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I got married:
1. There’s no one right way to handle money. I went into my marriage knowing quite a bit about money. As a single person, I had developed habits — some good and some not — that I believed served me well. In short, I thought I knew everything there was to know, and, of course, my way was the right one. Once I got married, I figured my husband had a lot to learn from me about how to handle money and use it wisely. It took me years to realize that I had just as much to learn from him. Although he came to the relationship with less financial experience, he still knew just as much as I did about our dreams, values, and goals. We approached money differently, but that didn’t make either of us wrong. Now, we’ve knitted together the best of what we each bring to create a combined approach. It’s certainly not perfect, but it seems to be serving us well.
2. Spending, saving, and sharing are all important parts of a balanced financial life. Before I met my husband I erred on the side of being frugal to a fault. I struggled to spend money on myself. My husband was a good spender, and while I initially saw that as a fault, I’ve come to see it as a gift. He knows how to spend intentionally and wisely. He’s skilled at connecting our money and our values in our spending life. I’m grateful. I also think that he’s learned a lot from me about the importance of giving our money to causes we care about. Now, through our mutual desire to save, his spending skills, and my giving practices, we find balance together in our shared financial life.
3. One spouse handling the money just won’t work. One of you may be more of the financially-minded person in the relationship, but don’t let that fool you. Unlike cooking, cleaning, and so many other shared household tasks, don’t be tempted to divide and conquer when it comes to managing your money. I tried this, and in the process I turned our money into my money. I used it in ways that reflected my values, beliefs, and dreams — leaving my husband to reluctantly follow along in the dark. Find a way to come together so you are both on the same page when it comes to where you are and where you are going. One person might be more in charge of the day-to-day transactions, but you should never leave the other spouse out of the process — even if he or she claims that is what he or she wants.
4. It’s ok to have his, hers, and ours money. Sharing everything doesn’t make you a better married couple. In fact, a little independence goes a long way. You are not going to share every dream, value, or goal with your spouse. Giving each other space to pursue your own individual interests can bring a lot of joy and independence while also taking some stress and tension off of the relationship.
5. Whether you like it or not, your past will shape your present and future. We all have a money story — attitudes and beliefs about money that have been molded by our experiences at home growing up, modeled by prominent people in our lives, and put into practice in our early adulthood. No one comes into their marriage as a blank slate. Knowing each other’s money story can help you better appreciate your similarities as well as have more empathy for the areas where you differ.
What do you wish you knew before you got married?
I want to help engaged and married couples to avoid learning these lessons (and more) the hard way, like we did. That’s why I’m starting a coaching program for couples. Through a survey and 1.5 hour Marriage & Money session, I can help you and your partner:
· Gain a better understanding of yourselves and one another
· Find concrete ways to work together as a financial team
· Create alignment around your shared values, dream, and goals
· Decide together on what next steps you need to take
You’ll leave the session with a better understanding of yourself, your partner, and how you might align your money and your values to create a more fulfilling life. I’ll also leave you with a personalized set of questions – based on your unique survey results – to help you continue your money conversations.
Worried about being judged for your money habits? Don’t worry — this session is about growth, not shame. We focus on the positive habits you can use to make your financial goals a reality.
During November and December, I’m looking for three couples to help me test out this new coaching program. In return for your feedback, I will offer you the session for $50 off. Use the discount code 50OFF2018 to secure your spot. I can’t wait to work with you! Interested? Find out more in this Coaching Session page. Have questions? Aren’t quite sure if you’re ready to commit? Contact me to schedule a free 15 minute coaching conversation to see if this session is right for you!
Photo Credit: Tandem Tree Photography