Money, bills, financial planning are the root of many difficulties in any relationship. One cliché scenario is a wife whose husband believes she overspends on clothes, health or beauty products. However, the reality is that overspending is both a men’s and a women’s issue. Think: cars, wine, cigars, sporting events guys' trips, and trips with buddies. While same sex couples may disprove the gendered stereotypes, even in these relationships, the core behaviors ring true.
- talk it out
- understand that money behavior is learned
- remember that money skills are not taught in school
- make a budget
- get an advisor
- be hypocritical
- say “I make more than you”
- hide things
The first thing that you need to do is to have a conversation about money with your partner. It's often said that money is the one thing that leads to most divorces. If you can talk about it ahead of time, discuss your goals like saving for retirement and education, and write your plans down. With things on paper, it becomes a lot easier to talk about and a lot easier to stay on track.
Remember that any behavior about money is learned, not a moral failing. Traditionally these thoughts and actions are passed down from observation of family members, particularly mom and dad. While the behavior can be unlearned, it is sometimes a painful process.
Money management is the worst-taught subject in school. The only thing we learn about money in schools is where to put the decimals, and which bill has which president on its face. And at the end of the day, no one really talks about how to budget your money, or how and why to save for retirement. In the end, students do not learn the difference between actual math and money math.
The budget is the best weapon against overspending, or the perception of overspending. Here are some rough guidelines: Make sure you pay yourself and save first. A good rule of thumb is to 20% of your income. If you're going to tithe to a religious organization, then give 10% of income. This leaves 70% to live on. Next, account for mortgages and all the bills. The final thing to work into the budget is “his” and “her” money. Whether it's $50 a week or $500 a month, you've got to let the other person spend their portion of the money on things that they want and enjoy.
Do seek the help of a financial advisor to outline the dos and don'ts of savings. Another great advantage of having a financial advisor, is the accountability piece. If you start to live outside of your budget, your advisor can bring you back to the importance of why you're saving and the importance of staying within your budget.
Just like some people may overeat to help hide a depression issue, over-spending might be hiding other personal issues that your spouse is struggling with.
Remember that everybody's path to money awareness is different, and there are few facts along the way. Instead, we are all exposed to opinions that have been passed along by generation after generation. Financial pundits are not tremendously different from our parents in that respect: they often only give you half the story.
The budget is what the budget is. Budgets only succeed when both partners participate equally.
You've agreed to be a partner, by taking your wedding vows, moving in together, or creating another arrangement. A true partner realizes that just because you make the most money doesn't mean you get to make the money decisions alone. Your spouse is likely enabling you to make the money that you do. Be grateful for that role that the other spouse takes, and appreciate that it is a bigger job than most people ever realize.
When you start hiding things is when you place extra stress on a relationship that doesn't need to be there.
Using a budget as a tool, talking things through honestly, and removing judgments is the best way for both partners in a relationship to come to terms with overspending.