Thursday, December 17, 2009


It may be easier if your styles of handling money are similar, but here, as with other characteristics, opposites attract. Ideally, couples should have a serious talk about their individual financial preferences before differences erupt. But in the era of romantic love (from the late nineteenth century on), we have felt that it somehow tarnished the purity of love to discuss it in the same context as money. As a result, the importance of money is generally ignored during courtship, yet it becomes a primary focus of contention during marriage.

In my years of counseling practice, the complaints I hear from married clients have changed little. A typical scenario might be: “My wife is an emotional spender. She’s not realistic about money.” “Money with him is a power struggle. My husband doesn’t hear me when I ask for things. He doesn’t know what it takes to run a family.” Some other classic mismatch combinations are: a serious money saver paired with a person who is admittedly ‘born to shop,’ a high roller/risk taker paired with a safety seeker afraid to take risks, and a materialistic status seeker paired with a bohemian. While these and other combinations all come with their own challenges and issues built in, there is hope.


Be involved and invest in your relationship. It is one of your greatest assets in life. Understand your differences and plan around them. Take equal responsibility for managing your money so both of you are informed. For example, if one person routinely pays the bills, the other should file the paid invoices.

Respect each other’s differences instead of judging them. Look for patterns and issues that continually crop up and then look at what attitudes and feelings about money and what emotions are creating those behavioral patterns. Next, discuss ways to avoid falling into those patterns in the future. You might want to schedule a monthly “money talk” as a forum for these discussions. Remember that good financial communication works both ways – listening as well as talking. The price of not communicating is to proceed to the point where differences appear irreconcilable.

Watch for telltale signs of financial compatibility while courting. Deal with these issues when they present themselves. Don’t think it will get better when you are married or living together.

If you don’t deal with issues up front, your differences may get blown out of proportion. The key is to try to understand your partner’s feelings about money before lashing out in response. One of the most reliable ways to work with your partner is to take Moneymax®. It’s positive, eliminates emotions getting in the way, it’s fast and easy, non-threatening and objective. It shows potential problem areas to be discussed and considered, and reveals ways to manage money more harmoniously as a couple and ultimately in a way that will satisfy the needs of both partners.

In every couple, no matter what your income level is, there are daily decisions to be made about the allocation of money. Among low-income families, money is a constant source of irritation because of its short supply, but it may also be a chief irritant among the more affluent. A shortage of money is not usually the real problem in a money fight. The problem may be differences in attitudes, preexisting grievances, or any number of factors. According to the Family Service Association, of marriages ostensibly threatened by money arguments, only 6 percent of the couples were actually short of money. The most ferocious marital money conflicts occur when there are irreconcilable differences in money personalities, such as when a saver marries a spender.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you haven’t met your ideal financial match, you can learn to diffuse the money conflicts in your relationship by discovering, understanding and working with your financial personalities. So turn your much ado about money into much ado about nothing.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Three years ago, Jim and Laurie were on top of the world, rich in money and spirit. They had done well in the stock market with their 401k plan. They were so confident in their future that they decided it was time to plan for retirement.

They had been researching second homes in the Southeast, and settled on the west coast of Florida—a good value for a waterfront condo. They stretched themselves and spent more than their budget allowed. As a result, they had to refinance their principal residence and take much of the profit that had accumulated. They put more money down on their new vacation home so the monthly payments would be affordable with their current monthly cash flow.

Like so many other couples, they never dreamed the market would plummet and that they would experience the “Great Recession”. They never dreamed they would lose 60% of the wealth they had accumulated for retirement. Moreover, Jim never dreamed that his job would be eliminated—yet Laurie and Jim were indeed hit with this double whammy of financial challenges.

When I met him, Jim had found another job. However, his salary was two-thirds of his former salary and he had the same level of responsibility. He worked long hours, seven days a week.

Jim and Laurie are similar to other American couples who had to digest and adapt to significant losses—both financial and emotional—that they weren’t anticipating. They could no longer afford the lifestyles they were living.

They were faced with the very scary pressures of meeting monthly payments that they no longer could afford. They thought they might lose their home. They were also starting to borrow money on their credit cards and unable for the very first time to pay off their monthly balances. Throughout 18 years of marriage, they had always made a point of paying off monthly balances.

When I met Jim and Laurie earlier this year, they were living with a great deal of financial and emotional stress. Laurie was feeling the effects physically. Jim was just trying to make it through day-to-day with his heavy work schedule; but he, too, was feeling the effects in not sleeping well and not getting any exercise.

Jim and Laurie had options they hadn’t explored. For example, they hadn’t thought of renting their condo, which had the potential of being a great vacation rental. They also hadn’t thought of meeting with their bank and other creditors and asking them to modify their monthly payments so they better reflected their current monthly income..

Although Laurie was initially upset at the thought of strangers living in her home, she quickly adapted to the idea when she learned how much rent their beautiful condo would provide—it would practically pay for itself with just the high-season rent. They would use it themselves, off season, when they could afford to get away. They wouldn’t have to give it up at all.

Jim and Laurie were fortunate in having the focus and persistence to make their new circumstances pay off for them. They took a realistic look at their circumstances, reached out for help, and then applied themselves in achieving the goals that mattered most. Their open and flexible mindsets empowered them to regain control of their money and their lives.