In my “Love Essentially” column, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Media Group publications(fyi, the Tribune bought Sun-Times Local a few weeks ago) I address fighting about money in relationships. With the help of a top-notch financial advisor, I offer tips to minimize fighting, stress and anxiety.
Tips to Minimize Fighting Over Finances by Jackie Pilossoph
Does this conversation sound familiar?
Wife: “Honey, I need money.”
Husband: “What for?”
Wife: “What do you mean, ‘What for?’ To pay bills!”
Husband: “I’ve never seen anyone spend more money than you.”
Wife: “Stop being so cheap.”
Husband: “All I do is work to make money and all you do is spend!”
Wife: “What about raising your children? Who does that?!”
Husband: “I’m just saying, could you try to spend less and save more?”
Wife: “You’re clueless. You have no idea how much things cost.”
It’s a well known fact that the number one reason couples fight is money. But, according to Elaine Koby Moss, discussing finances with your spouse doesn’t have to feel like you’re in a boxing ring with gloves on.
Moss, who is a vice-president at the Chicago investment advisory firm, Vestor Capital,has spent the last 25 years in the financial industry and has worked with hundreds of couples to alleviate fear, stress and conflict when it comes to financial planning and saving.
I asked Moss why money is such a big issue of contention in some relationships and she gave three reasons:
1). Couples are coming together at an older age. Both parties are coming to the table with assets of their own, which is a change from generations past when couples formed at younger ages and built their wealth together. This causes both men and women to be more guarded and less willing to co-mingle funds in some cases.
2). One person might be earning significantly more or all of the family’s income. The imbalance can cause conflict because of resentment.
3). There might be differences in spending and/or saving habits. People come to a relationship with very different backgrounds and philosophies in regards to saving and spending. One person might be more of an investment risk taker, the other might prefer conservative investments. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the other’s rationale behind their investment choices.
So, what can couples do to minimize arguments over cash? Moss offered these tips:
- Both husband and wife need to have a clear understanding of their financial situation. In other words, both husband and wife need to be educated on things such as how much the family is spending every month, how much money is in every financial account, and how much debt they have. “If both parties are involved, there is less room for surprise and error and more room for financial harmony,” Moss said.
- Choose a financial advisor who you both feel comfortable with. Forget about using your buddy from college or the guy your dad uses. Moss recommends interviewing a few different advisors and agreeing on one you both feel safe and happy with.
- Develop a concrete financial plan. With the help of your advisor, come up with specific numbers for financial planning and saving. The advisor will help you put together documents to make things easier, such as an income statement, a balance sheet and a cash flow report. “A solid financial plan helps couples achieve their goals that includes spending, investing, college planning, retirement planning and insurance strategies,” said Moss.
I want to add two more tips:
- Never hide money. Unless it’s an emergency, for example your husband or wife has a severe gambling problem, I think hiding money is very bad for many reasons. First, it makes you feel sneaky (and bad about yourself.) Secondly, it’s disrespectful to your spouse. But most of all, you are stealing from your own family!
- Be honest. Lots of couples lie about money.You might tell your husband your bonus was lower than it actually was, you might tell your wife you lost $200 playing poker when you really lost $600, or you might tell your spouse a different number than what’s actually in your savings account, so that person will feel better. Honestly, lying about money can lead to disaster. The biggest gift a couple can give each other is the truth.