Money Management Relationship Advice
Money management problems for couples both married and unmarried are a very real issue. In fact, somewhere around half of the people who come in for some type of relationship counseling here at Couples Counseling Center report that financial issues are a major source of friction within their relationships. This is particularly true for newer couples and for those who just starting a family.
According to Daniel Sullivan, a relationship therapist who works with clients around these issues, money problems run the gambit. “In many cases, we see couples who simply live beyond their means. The heart of the problem is that one or both parties in the relationship fear talking about what is going on financially and engage in the costly game of avoidance and denial. If left unchecked, these issues can grow and eventually contribute to a breakup or divorce.”
Given the important role that money plays in relationships, the counselors at here at the Center came together and brainstormed a bit to come up with five specific tips to create positive financial change. Some of the suggestions made here may seem like common sense while others will make you think. Read all of them in their totality in order to fully absorb their deeper meaning.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. Talk about money once a week
One of the best ways to stop the cycle of avoidance and denial around the topic of money is to dedicate time each week to discuss financial issues. This means you and your mate sit down for a minimum of a half hour during an agreed upon time slot to talk about money in a transparent way. Financial goals must be part of the dialogue – meaning identifying specific money goals and outlining the steps for goal attainment.
Many couples find it necessary to work with a couples/marriage therapist in order to set up the basic communications framework for attending to this step. This is particularly true if there has been a history of one or more persons withholding financial information – such as hiding credit card receipts and bank statements.
2. Make and keep a budget
If you do not already have a budget, now is the time to set one up. If do have one, when is the last time the both of you looked at it and made adjustments? On a related note, if you have never created a budget and don’t know how to create one – there are plenty of free resources online from which to choose.
Here are several templates from financial advice expert, Dave Ramsey. You can also do a quick check of your home PC to see if financial software is already pre-installed. If it is, why not use it? Finally, there are a plethora of apps available for iPhone and Android to consider. Just do a search for “personal finance”. It may take some time on the front end to create a budget but it is well worth the investment in the long run.
By creating a budget together, the both of you will begin to get a realistic handle on what is happening financially and start the process of tackling problems.
3. Set up an emergency savings account
You may have heard of this tip before but we are going to give you the psychological reasons why having an emergency savings account is important. Here it goes – knowing that you have liquid assets, meaning cash in the bank, delivers you and your partner peace of mind. That piece of mind removes the toxic energy that has historically served as the source of friction in the form of anxiety and worry. Pretty simple, huh?
Most financial experts suggest six to eight months of emergency savings. The money should be used to cover expenses in case one or both of you become unemployed or in some way do not have the ability to generate income. Don’t underestimate how much you need. Factor in all of your monthly expenses.
On this point, we recommend that when you create an emergency savings account, you make this extremely difficult to withdraw from. Alex DeWoskin, a marriage counselor here at the Center suggests: “I tell clients to find a credit union in another state and set up a basic savings account. I then suggest they send in deposits through the mail. Debit cards should not be attached to the account. The idea is to make the money hard to get to.”
4. Freeze a credit card
One of the major reasons couples find themselves in financial hot water relates to credit cards. If you or your mate has been using credit cards to make daily purchases or have thought of credit as your form of emergency savings – stop right now! Credit cards are nothing more than expensive loans.
Bill Ferrand, a marriage therapist here at Couples Counseling Center suggests that couples consider removing credit cards from their physical persons. “I have strongly recommended to my clients with credit card problems to cut all of them up except for one. I then suggest the couple take that credit card and stick it in a glass of water and place it in the freezer. This makes getting to the card a bit more difficult and creates a mental barrier for reflection before using.”
5. Keep a spending journal
This particular point can be used in conjunction with tip #1 related to money conversations. It is imperative that both parties in the relationship keep a spending journal. This does not have to be complicated or time consuming. If you have a smart-phone, you can likely download an app for free that lets you quickly plug in purchases in “real time”; such as how much was spent for gas after a fill-up or the amount used to buy a pack of gum at a five and dime.
You don’t have to be technically gifted to journal spending either. There’s nothing wrong with using good old fashioned pen and paper to record purchases in the form of a cheap memo pad. You can pick one of these up for just a few dollars at your local grocery store.
Here is the deal under this point according to Dr. Tyler Fortman, a therapist here at the Center. “Recording spending in a journal means recording everything and not using a cafeteria style approach. Couples will never be able to see what money is truly going out unless they have accurate information. Both parties in the relationship have to commit to doing this.”
Money Management Resources
A frequent homework assignment we give to couples who are seeking to strengthen financial stability and reduce the amount of friction within their relationships comes in the form of a book. Specifically, we recommend: First Comes Love, Then Comes Money by Bethany and Scott Palmer.
What we love about this resource is that it offers couples an excellent primer on how to talk about money in a way that removes historical barriers of shame and guilt. If you notice, our number #1 suggestion was to talk about money once a week. This particular read helps couples get to that place quickly!
If money is causing problems in your relationship, know that you are not alone. It’s a problem for many couples face, particularly for those who are just starting out. Some people find it helpful to speak with a counselor on a one on one basis about financial difficulties in order to better understand their historical relationship with money.
If the way you think about money has been a personal challenge for you, why not work with a therapist to gain new insight about how you view money and go about the business of creating positive change?