How To Save A Relationship: Money

relationship

relationshipWe all enter relationships with past experiences and ideas that have nothing to do with the current situation. Money is one of those pieces of baggage that is often different between two people. We each have a money blueprint, or a way of thinking about how to earn it, how to save and how to spend it. Even children who grow up in the same home, with the same experiences, don’t have the same money blueprint.

Tom and Joan are siblings. They grew up with a single mother who worked hard each day to make ends meet and to be sure that they had food on the table and a roof over their heads. The children never went without, but they could see that their mother did. She made sure they had what they needed for school but there was never enough to go on a vacation or get the dog they both wanted.

When they grew up, Tom treated money as if there would never be enough and why try. He didn’t save and lived by the skin of his teeth each month, just barely getting by. He watched his mother create a home out of almost nothing and he thought there was no reason to try to do anything differently. On the other hand, Joan saved every nickel she had. She kept her money in a fire box in her apartment until there was enough to invest in a money market account. She bought herself new clothes every month, but only on sale and with her employee discounts. She ate out with coupons once a month and bought used cars.

Both children grew up in the same house but walked out with different ideas about how money should be used. Realistically, money is to be used. You either save it or spend it, but you are using it.

When one person in the relationship feels like Tom and the other like Joan it can create heated debate and arguments. If both people are like Tom, they may not have two nickels to rub together at the end of each month and have no idea how they’ll live out their retirement years. When two are like Joan they may have the money, but may never enjoy the benefits of using it.

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But neither of those things matter if a Tom money blueprint marries a Joan money blueprint. That’s when the fireworks begin.

This is not a problem that can’t be fixed. When two people are committed to learning about each other’s spending and savings habits and concerns, they can develop a unique blueprint that matches their individual needs and the needs of their partnership for life.

For instance, Tom could get a part time job for 8-10 hours a week with his full-time employment, or start his own small home based business. The couple can agree that all income from the extra time Tom spends will be his alone to spend at his discretion. Joan can agree to determine the amount of money she wants in their retirement accounts when they reach 65 and then they work backwards to determine how much money should go into those accounts each year.

Although it’s a hot topic, money is not an issue in which you can’t reach a compromise. With open and honest communication that doesn’t include arguing, pointing fingers or pushing each other’s buttons, most couples can navigate this minefield either alone or with the help of a counselor. Therapy and financial counseling can work together to bring a peaceful resolution to this sticky issue.

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