When Money-Opposites Attract

One’s a saver. One’s a spender. One would rather be at the mall. The other would rather be at the bank. How can financial advisors help couples with mixed money messages? Try three stages of action.  

Stage 1: Awareness. Sometimes we don’t realize the underlying money beliefs that drive our decisions. What money messages did each partner grow up with? Who in their lives influenced them when it came to handling money? What is the most important value that money helps each one achieve? 

Stage 2: Communicate. Now that the difference is on the table, how do conversations about it go? How well does each partner feel heard and understood? “Active listening” is a great tool to use at this point: Each one takes turn listening, mirroring, checking for understanding, and empathizing. 

Stage 3: Negotiate. With enhanced understanding, the couple is better equipped to come to a mutually agreeable solution. Several years ago a couple I worked with debated whether they should be saving 10% or 20% of their income. Both busy, young, successful professionals, with the lower savings, they could hire help at home for the house and lawn. But it was extremely important to one partner to be debt-free by age 40. After discussion, awareness, communication, and negotiation, they settled on saving 15% of their income, hiring some house help, and keeping their debt-free status as a goal, but not a rigid expectation. 

Money is the 3rd most frequent topic of marital arguments, after chores and children. Ironing out the wrinkles in money beliefs, behaviors and decisions can go a long way toward reaching financial goals with peace and harmony – whether those goals be at the mall, or the bank.

Holly Donaldson

Holly P. Donaldson, CFP® writes and consults on the psychology of money. Her fee-only, product-free financial planning practice focuses on increasing financial self-efficacy for those seeking a financial navigator to help them make good decisions. She is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch." With a fully virtual practice in Seminole, Florida, she primarily serves clients located in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater areas. Holly will also work with clients who are a good fit located elsewhere in the United States.

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