“Through the journey of your marriage, you will have fights, and the cause of those fights will be one of three things; family, intimacy, or money.”
As a bright-eyed young woman preparing for a trip down the aisle many years ago, our family minister sagely offered these words during marriage prep sessions. Ominous sounding at the time, they eventually proved themselves true. (At the heart of it, most of our conflicts indeed, boiled down to one of these three things.)
The Money Talk
While our financial advisor couldn’t help much with the family (or the more private matters) his guidance in getting us to have “the money talk” helped us navigate our early years of marriage smoothly. Being open and willing to listen to each other is key during this conversation, and the lessons he taught us still ring true 15 years later.
Here are some tips that proved worth their weight in gold for us:
1. Talk about money. This one seems simple enough, but can be tough if you’re not sure where to begin. At any stage of your relationship (including your second marriage) communicating openly about your expectations and financial goals is critical to your success as a couple.
2. Understand your “Why”. It may take a few sessions to get at exactly “why” you make certain financial decisions. Getting a handle on the nature of your relationship with money will help uncover the deeper motivation for your financial choices. Does money offer you a feeling of security? Allow you to enjoy new experiences together? Give you a way to ensure your children are taken care of should anything happen to you? Once you understand “why”, the “what” and “how” become simple.
3. Embrace simplicity. Information about investments and complex strategies is readily and abundantly available everywhere you look. Learning to shut out the noise and stay focused on your goals as a couple not only helps you achieve them, but it removes the stress and intensity from the process.
4. Remember your plan is a process. “Would you ever spend a lot of time arguing about whether to take a plane, train or automobile on a trip before you decide where you’re going?” This question comes from Carl Richards, CFP and he makes an excellent point. Often, couples are overwhelmed with product options, causing them to forget to focus on the more important matter of where they want to go.
Just like your marriage, your financial plan is a journey. You will need to adjust it over time. Not to accommodate new products (as many institutions would have you do) but to accommodate changes in your life and lifestyle. A trusted financial advisor understands the importance of maintaining a close relationship with you to help you in order to help you make wise decisions that stay in line with your plan as things change.
If you still occasionally find yourselves disagreeing, remember to identify what’s important to you both. If you can agree on values and goals, then deciding how to get there is much easier.