My husband and I talk about money all the time. It usually goes something like this “Did you pay that bill?” or “How much are we going to spend on Mom’s Christmas present?” or “Look at this new pair of shoes that I bought.” Follow that last one up with a raised eyebrow from my husband – not because of the cost, but because he is amazed that I will find a place for the new shoes in an already overcrowded closet. I’ll write about my trip to shoe rehab in a future blog post I’m sure.
What I’ve come to realize about our exchanges about money is that they are mostly logistical. They’re all about what, where, when but very rarely about why. That was, until about a year ago. I was in a class that was part of my Master’s in financial planning program and one of our assignments was to go through an exercise that would explore our attitudes and experiences with money. We were asked to go through the exercise ourselves and to try it with one other person. So, my husband obliged me and afterwards we compared our answers.
The outcome was surprising and positive. The questions elicited responses that drove us to a conversation about what we think about money and why we think that way. I was astonished to learn about some of the things that he felt and I was equally astonished that I hadn’t known these things before. After all, this is the person who I think I know best in the world. But as I look at it now, I realize we had never really talked about money as a subject, in and of itself. It had always been in relation to the ebbs and flows of everyday life.
I think we all know that money is considered a sore spot for couples. It’s tricky enough for one person to make sense of it all, but with two people with individual histories and dispositions it can no doubt be challenging. Like most conflict, it usually helps to understand where the other person is coming from, so here are some questions that you might consider going through with your significant other. The goal is to start a conversation about money that doesn’t pertain to a specific spending or saving event, but more about your thoughts and experiences related to money in general. The good news is all you need for this is a time and place where you can relax – no expertise, calculators or figures necessary. And here’s a tip – fess up if you’re a little uncomfortable. I know I was when we began our conversation but I think admitting it made both of us feel better.
Look for opportunities to share stories with questions like:
- Do you remember the first thing you bought with your own money? What was it? How did you get the money?
- Do you remember your first job and how you spent your first paycheck?
- How did you get money as a child or teen?
- As a kid, who did you think was rich or poor? Why?
- What have you spent money on purely for fun in the past?
- What have you done for fun and entertainment that didn’t cost a penny?
- What fun or recreational activities do you want to have money for in the future?
- What is your biggest fear about money? Did something(s) specific cause that?
- How do you feel about donating money? Why?
- How were financial decisions made in your family growing up?
- Do you approach money similarly or differently than your family, siblings or old friends?
- How do you feel about having debt?
- Is there an aspect of your financial life today that you hope will change in the future?
If you’re able to face down the belief that it’s taboo to talk about money and focus on listening with the intent to learn about each other, I think you’ll find this to be a positive experience. Since having our initial and subsequent conversations, we’ve been more purposeful about how we approach money in a way that I think has been better for both of us. We don’t necessarily agree on everything but I do feel like I understand where he’s coming from when we’re on different pages.
Should this be of interest to you, we have additional resources we can share to use on your own or with us at the office to further facilitate these kinds of conversations. Good luck. Talk long and prosper!
Questions sourced from MoneyHabitudes.com