By Bryan Trugman, CFPⓇ
It’s no surprise that our personal values influence the way we spend and think about money. And when a couple’s personal values don’t align, conflict arises. But here’s something a lot of couples don’t realize: conflict is not a problem. In fact, financial tension can actually make a marriage stronger.
When you get married and start a family, you have to adapt to a new mindset where you no longer get to spend money solely on your own terms. Because of this, money can become a source of tension in a marriage. Sadly, many couples lack the maturity—and guidance—to manage this tension, making financial disagreements a top reason cited for divorce. (1) But, we can help. Start by embracing your conflicts about money and use these tips to fight well.
Embrace the Tension
Opposites attract. You might be the saver and your spouse is the spender, or vice versa. Forget about trying to get on the same page. It’s likely you and your partner don’t think the same way about money (and other things); life would be boring if we all thought the same way. But there is an art to fostering a harmonious marriage between two people with conflicting points of view.
First, realize that there will always be some tension and you and your partner will often pull in opposite directions. This tension can actually make a marriage strong. Over time, as you and your spouse learn to check and balance each other, a new value system will slowly emerge. You will find that your disagreements will help you think and communicate more clearly as a family and make better decisions together.
Practice Arguing Out Loud
It doesn’t matter how well you learned to manage money when you were single; you never had to dialogue with yourself about your financial decisions. As a couple, no two adults are going to agree on every money-related decision, so conflict is inevitable. But you can talk these decisions through—or, more accurately, argue about them out loud.
Do you and your spouse have subjects that you avoid discussing because someone usually gets upset? What would happen if you both decided to stop avoiding uncomfortable topics and, instead, talked about them?
Find a System That Works for Your Family
Families that learn to embrace the financial strengths, weaknesses, and values of both spouses will inevitably end up developing some sort of system with rules and boundaries. How formal you get with your system is up to you.
Your family might use a system of envelopes or designate separate bank accounts for certain types of expenditures. As the kids get older, your systems for managing money as a family will need to grow with them. But, keep in mind, the best system for your family will address: What do you, your partner, and the whole family need in order to feel like everyone’s values around money are being respected?
Include the Kids
Children should gradually become more involved in discussions about money. The way that parents handle disagreements about money plays a major role in shaping children’s financial habits. Kids need to learn that they can’t have everything they want, and they need to learn how to negotiate and compromise.
As a couple, decide how and when to involve the kids in discussions about money, even if only to decide which items to buy at the grocery store. Another teachable moment: As your children will take up interests in things that cost money like sports and extracurricular activities, talk as a family about ways you can all make sacrifices in order to afford the cost. Rest assured, there will be conflict here too.
Take The Next Step
At every stage of life, there is something new to disagree about. Every family has to manage conflict. Sometimes, the process of working with an outside professional to develop a written financial plan can help you and your spouse think more clearly about your values as they relate to money. If you’d like to discuss how I might serve you and your family in this capacity, reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (516) 762-7603.
Bryan Trugman is managing partner, co-founder, and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) practitioner at Attitude Financial Advisors. With more than 13 years of experience, Bryan specializes in addressing the financial needs of new parents as they seek to realign their finances, assisting divorced individuals as they navigate an unforeseen fork in the road, and strategizing with those seeking to accrue a dependable retirement nest egg. Bryan is known for being a good listener and building strong relationships with his clients so he can help them develop a customized financial plan based on what’s important to them. He is passionate about helping his clients experience financial confidence so they can worry less and play more. Bryan has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in mathematics from State University of New York at Binghamton. He has served on the board of the Financial Planning Association and continues to be actively involved in the national organization. He is also a member of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce and has served as its vice president and as a board member. When he’s not working, you can find Bryan on the ballroom dance floor or engaged in a fast-paced game of doubles on the tennis court. To learn more about Bryan, connect with him on LinkedIn.