This week I want to keep up my theme of writing about money and marriage. Although I didn’t intend on turning it into a full-blown series, it has been fun to see the interaction it has created with readers and I truly believe it has helped many of you. I know it has helped me to formulate my thoughts well enough to be able to write it all out. This week, I want to write as a husband as much as a financial counselor. I know the demographics of readers on this site tell me it is mostly women who have clicked on here. But if you’re reading this and you’re not a man, you probably know one or two of them and could share this article. Plus, don’t you want to read something you can nod your head in agreement with? One last thing, I cover these topics in some detail in my book, so if you haven’t checked out “From Debtor to Better: The Details of Debt and How to Get Out!” I would encourage you to get a copy today.
As men, we have this tendency to want to fix things: our money, ourselves, our wives. The problem with this is that we often are too proud to either learn some new skills or ask those who should be able and willing to help to lend us a hand. Personal finance is no longer about the guy you shave with each morning once you say “I do.” You now have to show your wife that you love her, even with your money. We all need some money help, so here are some tips that will help you love your spouse using your wallet.
His Money and Her Money: It’s a Trap!
If you are keeping separate checking accounts or savings accounts from your spouse, you’ve fallen into the “his money and her money” trap. This is a dangerous place to be because you’re closing the lines of communication. One of the best ways to show your wife you love her is to share the household financial responsibilities. This means that no matter who the primary breadwinner is and regardless of who currently handles the household finances, consider setting up a monthly date night just to dream and set goals for your finances as a couple. Don’t try to be “separate but equal.” History has shown this doesn’t work. Instead, take money advice from the person who should matter most in your life.
It Won’t Work if You Don’t Agree
Let’s make a clarification here: there is a difference in a marriage problem and a money problem. If you come home and your wife is mad because you bought a new Rolex, you have a marriage problem. Don’t get me wrong here, a Rolex is not evil and there is nothing wrong with buying one. The problem comes in when you and your spouse can’t agree about financial priorities. While it is unreasonable to expect you to discuss every purchase, a good idea is to agree that for any purchase over a certain amount, you discuss and agree on it before acting.
It Can’t Be a Weapon – Only a Tool
Have you ever gone out and bought something just to spite your spouse? Have you ever purposefully NOT paid a bill so your spouse will feel some pain? Be honest! As terrible as this may sound, I see it all the time as a financial counselor. Used rightly, money is how you and your spouse can discuss what is important to you, what worries you, what ambitions you have and what is keeping you from accomplishing your dreams. Unfortunately, most couples never discuss money until there is a problem, and then they usually lead to huge arguments. Instead of using money as a weapon, consider taking an hour or two a month and discuss where your money went last month and what good and bad decisions you made as a couple along the way.
Nerds and Free Spirits
The concept of Nerds and Free Spirits is familiar to those who have read any material by Dave Ramsey, because it helps to simplify the process of identifying and thus working within the parameters of your natural inclinations with money. If you’re not familiar with the difference in a nerd and a free spirit, let me give you a litmus test. The simplest way to explain the difference in a nerd and a free spirit is in the mental questions they ask (usually unconsciously) when dealing with money. A nerd will ask, “how much do I have to spend?” A free spirit will ask, “how much can I spend?” A nerd will ask, “how much more money can I bring in?” A free spirit will ask, “how many nicer things can I bring in?” As you likely know from your own experience, couples usually have one nerd and one free spirit (opposites attract). To love your spouse if you’re a nerd, you can work on restraining your stingy side. If you’re a free spirit, loving your spouse means to be willing to stop spending so the household doesn’t go broke!
Balance and Boundaries
Relating with money can be boiled down to finding balance and setting boundaries. Show your wife what is important to you, help her understand why it is important, and then listen to the response. More importantly, ask her what is important to her and try to understand why it is important and LISTEN. While money may be at the core of your discussion, it isn’t the focus – love and priorities are the two major focal points. In other words, you’re working together to set the appropriate balance and boundaries for your household finances.
With these tips, you can be on your way to using money to love your spouse. Whether you’re a newlywed or have been at it for years, enacting these tips will make a powerful difference in your marriage.
Want more? Check out the chapter “Relationships and Money” in my book, “From Debtor to Better: The Details of Debt and How to Get Out!”
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