(reprinted from Forbes.com)
It is no surprise that we come into relationships, especially marriage, with different financial personalities, which may or may not lead to a breakdown of our partnership.
As the Financial Times points out, “Financial psychology is a somewhat overlooked discipline that occupies the space between psychology and behavioural economics. Advertisers and marketeers trying to tempt us to spend money are well aware of it…” But we may not be so aware.
Your Financial Personality Type
There are many nuances to this process, but I’m going to keep it simple. Below is a short quiz that would be fun for you and your partner to take, individually. Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions and discuss your findings with your partner after you have determined where you stand. And, don’t forget to answer each question honestly.
- Do you find yourself worrying about money often?
- Do you use your credit card to the limit?
- Do you know exactly how much you have saved?
- Do you live from paycheck to paycheck?
- If you suddenly received a large sum of money, would you save most of it?
- Do you feel that you must prove you can live as well as people around you?
- Are you afraid that you’ll be left destitute in your old age?
- Do you make on-the-spot decisions to buy something you like?
- When your partner suggests buying something, is your first response, “We can’t afford it”?
- Do you use shopping as a reward for yourself?
How to score: “Yes” answers to the odd-numbered questions indicate that you are a saver, while “Yes” answers to the even-numbered questions show that you are a spender. Where were most of your “Yes” answers?
The Right Answer
It feels like being a saver is the right way to go. We all know what happens when we spend too much. The real answer? You want your financial personality to be balanced; a careful saver who can achieve their goals and a joyful spender when it comes time to part with your money.
We have all seen the extreme saver. Let’s say you are out to lunch with a group of friends, who can all afford to be there and the bill comes. It is appropriate to just split the bill. But, the saver says, “Well, I only had a salad.” Or worse, we all have that brother-in-law that sticks us with the bill when it comes around. This behavior is “anal” as Freud would say. It is a fear. This fear brings its own baggage into a marriage. It’s the fear of parting with money and the consequences thereof.
The Baggage You Bring Into Your Relationship
We all have emotional ties to money, which we develop in childhood. You may have come from a poor family where your parents had to hold down several jobs just to make ends meet. Or, on the other side of the scale, your family may have been wealthy and never ever looked at a price-tag.
You will bring all of that attitude and baggage into your current relationship. And, what is worse, you may hold on to your beliefs so strongly, that you think your way is correct; which means, your partner's way of handling money is wrong. Your self-righteous stance is sure to bring on the fury of your partner.
This can even set up a competition with the kids. The “cool” parent lets the kids buy anything and is always slipping them money, whereas the boring, tyrant parent makes the kids earn their money and will not dole it out. Kids will pick up on this really quickly and go to the “cool” parent to get cash. This will further undermine your relationship.
It’s easy to see how the money fights begin. “We don’t have enough money to buy that.” “I can’t believe that you wasted our money on that.” “I earn the money, it’s my money; you just stay home with the kids.” “Hey kids, don’t tell your Mom that I just bought this; it’s our secret.” “Where did the money go, I never spend anything.” You get the point and you know how this escalates into fighting and recriminations and in so many cases, the breakdown of trust in the relationship. And eventually; the relationship.
How To Disagree Agreeably
Start by telling your partner how you were raised and how you feel about money. The quick quiz should shed some light on this. It’s important for you to each appreciate the other's relationship to money and to still love each other for those differences. The next thing is to start to set goals that are important for both of you. When someone steps out of bounds, which will happen, you have to agree to gently say, “This makes me uncomfortable.” Not, “Here you go again…”
Don’t try to change each other. This is usually an exercise in futility. You know the old adage that is credited to Mark Twain, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.” Embrace your differences and try to learn from each other.