Everyone approaches money differently: some have had it their whole lives and have never learned to conserve their spending, while others have had a lean upbringing and have consequently learned to be thrifty. Some have had money their whole lives because they are thrifty, while others struggle because they aren’t savvy spenders.
Given the vast degree of differences between people’s money habits – their “money personalities” – there’s little surprise that finances can be the biggest source of contention in a relationship. The good news is that even traditionally clashing money personalities can through mutual respect and good communication, learn to live harmoniously and plan a prosperous future together. Here are some important standards to live by to achieve that harmony:
1. Talk about finances
Many people find it difficult to discuss finances - usually because they’re embarrassed about debt, their spending habits, or income - but how can you expect to plan a future together if this topic never comes up? Speaking openly and honestly about money empowers a couple to set financial goals and to support each other in pursuit of those goals. Be honest, even if you struggle with basic money management and especially if you have a poor credit history or credit card debt. These are things your partner needs and deserves to know so that, together, you can both carve a much better path forward.
2. Know your weaknesses
Are you an emotional spender? Are you an obsessive budgeter? If your habits are overly liberal or overly strict, you’ve definitely got money flaws and weaknesses, so identify them and try to work on them to establish greater harmony within your relationship.
3. Share the responsibility
Finances is a shared responsibility so leaving all the control in one pair of hands shifts the balance of power in the relationship, which leads to disharmony. Both people in a relationship should (1) understand the details of the monthly bills and expenditures, (2) contribute towards paying them, and (3) have a fair say in how finances are handled. The latter is true even if the two incomes aren’t equal, or if one doesn’t earn an income at all. It’s about mutual respect.
4. Set financial goals together
Each individual in a relationship has goals (or should have goals) but couples should also establish financial goals together. This isn’t just about saving; it’s also about helping and encouraging your partner to save up for the things they really want in life. Put a comfortable retirement first and leave a little space for secondary and tertiary goals, such as a tertiary education fund for your children, an annual holiday somewhere exotic, etc.
5. Celebrate your successes
Achieving those financial goals deserves celebration, so be sure to savour the moment! Whether you’ve paid off a credit card, saved up for and bought that appliance you’ve wanted for ages, or hit a savings goal, celebrating these small victories will keep you motivated.
6. Maintain individual bank accounts
As much as your finances are a joint responsibility, it’s important for individuals in a relationship to maintain a little identity and autonomy. Having separate bank accounts empowers you to save up for the things you want, while the shared account can be for the shared expenses (household, mortgage, utilities, etc.) and financial goals (savings, vacation, family car, investments, etc.) If there’s money left over after provision has been made for these, it can be divided between the partners and spent how they see fit.