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According to a recent study, nearly half of all couples keep money secrets from each other. Yet, being honest about money is essential to a healthy relationship and a sound financial future. These are some steps you can take separately and together to practice financial fidelity.
Steps to Take on Your Own
1. Examine your own attitudes about money. Developing a positive attitude about money will make it easier to cooperate with your partner. Conduct a candid self-evaluation and be willing to make practical improvements. Maybe you’ll decide to shop for groceries more carefully or contribute more to your retirement accounts.
2. Seek fulfillment in non-material ways. The more you value spiritual attainments and your relationships with family and friends, the more likely you’ll be to keep money in perspective. Playing with your kids is better therapy than shopping!
3. Try to be more flexible. People tend to feel tense about money because it plays a big role in determining our life conditions. Be gentle with yourself as you work on making gradual adjustments.
Steps to Take as a Couple
1. Start discussing your finances early in your relationship. Get off to a good start by sharing relevant information with your partner about your net worth and spending habits. Remember to discuss your personal beliefs about money as well.
2. Declare amnesty for past errors. Encourage your partner to level with you by focusing on solutions rather than analyzing past events. For example, think about how good you feel when the library declares an amnesty month, and you can bring back that book that got “lost” in the trunk of your car last summer.
3. Be respectful of your differences. You and your partner may hold different beliefs about managing money. Most people “inherit” their beliefs about money from their parents or the financial circumstances of their childhood. However, you can still work as a team if you strive to negotiate fairly.
4. Agree on how to handle debts. If one of you entered the relationship with past debts, ensure you have a mutually agreeable plan in place for handling the situation. Going forward, keep track of how much you owe to keep it from piling up.
5. Save together. Approach saving as a team. Motivate each other to put money aside for retirement or other goals like college tuition, and then praise each other for doing so.
6. Collaborate on major purchases. Many couples set a rough dollar amount for how much they spend before they check in with each other.
7. Run a price check. As you may have noticed, women and men tend to spend money on different things. Head off misunderstandings with a little education on how much designer handbags and power tools really cost.
8. Put aside some mad money. Each of you may want to hold onto a designated amount each month that you can spend any way you like. She may use her mad money for lunch dates with the girls or weekend garage sale finds. He may use it to take in a baseball game or drink after work with his friends.
9. Take responsibility for your situation. However you set up your accounts and whichever one of you handles the paperwork, you are both accountable for the outcomes. Keep each other informed all along the way…No surprises!
10. Seek professional advice. The decisions we need to make about money can get complicated and have far-reaching consequences. Talk with a financial planner if you need help understanding insurance or investments. Get a lawyer when it’s time to draw up a will. Consider couples therapy as a way to help defuse major money conflicts.
Protect your emotional and economic well-being by being truthful with your partner about money issues. You’ll feel much better and even develop greater intimacy with your partner after you liberate yourself from any financial secrets you’ve been keeping.