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Do You Know Your Partner's Money Story?

Here’s How to Add More Understanding and Compassion to Your Financial Conversations
Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA® Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Do You Know Your Partner's Money Story?

Relationships, by their very nature, can be complex. So, too, can financial matters. When you put the two together, it can make for some challenging money conversations with your spouse or partner! However, even if you are 100 percent in tune with your own money values and goals, sharing your life with someone else means it’s important that you understand their approach to finances, too. Specifically, it’s important to know your partner’s money story.

What is a Money Story?

Each of us has our own money story. It is the history of financial decisions and financial influences that define how we view finance today. It also represents the emotional attachments we have to money, which impact how we spend, save and share.

When you understand your own money story, it can remove some of the barriers that get in the way of making level-headed financial decisions. You will always have emotions surrounding money, but if you can separate the emotional from the rational, you’ll more clearly identify your true goals and make better financial decisions.

In turn, knowing your partner’s financial story helps you understand the motives behind their spending and saving, and it can give you insight into areas of personal finance that the two of you may disagree on. When both partners can understand where the other is coming from, you’ll find your money conversations are filled with more compassion and compromise – even if you generally feel like the two of you are financial polar opposites.

SEE ALSO: Money Talks with Your Aging Parents

How to Start the Money Story Conversation

If you’re interested in learning more about your spouse or partner’s history of financial decisions and influences, and which values they hold close, start asking questions. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What is your earliest memory of money?
  • How did your family handle money when you were growing up?
  • Do you have any role models when it comes to managing money?
  • What are the best financial decisions you’ve made?
  • Is there a decision about money that you regret?
  • What early money messages did you receive that have stuck with you (e.g. “time is money”)?
  • How would you describe financial freedom?

The answers to these questions are likely to open up larger discussions and allow you to get in-depth with your spouse or partner’s money story.

Tell Your Money Story with the Flourish Financially Challenge

Understanding Your Partner’s Values

I believe it’s important for individuals to clarify their own core values and for couples to share theirs with one another, too. Start by using this helpful article from MindTools, where you’ll find a long list of common values. You and your partner should each jot down the top 20 or 30 that feel right to you without consulting one another. Finally, take the time to refine your list down to just 5 or 7 values each. These are your core values, and I believe you’ll benefit by reviewing them with one another.

Now, you may find that you and your partner don’t share any core values at all. In fact, my husband and I only share one – family. However, this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about open-mindedness or philanthropy. It simply means that our core values are slightly different – and this is okay! What’s important is that you keep your partner’s core values in mind as you navigate financial and life goals together so that you can replace anger, confusion, or resentment with understanding and compassion as often as possible.

Here’s an example from my own life: Financial independence is a huge focus for me, and it’s one of my core values. However, my husband does not make money or financial independence part of his core values. In fact, he defers to me for all financial decisions. We both have access to Mint, an app and online platform that helps people easily track their spending (which I set up), but Jay doesn’t look at it. At times, this can make me feel resentful or financially lonely because, ultimately, it’s up to me to make the finances work. However, since I understand Jay’s values and money story, I can also understand his attitude toward money. Jay cares about our finances, but his approach to managing them is simply different from mine.

SEE ALSO: Expect the Unexpected: Marriage, Divorce and Your Finances

Informative Statistics on Relationships and Money

Even if you and your spouse or partner are generally on the same page, money can still be a controversial subject – and one that leads to difficulties in a relationship, like financial infidelity. Take a look at these statistics from Mark Bradshaw’s work on love, marriage, and financial infidelity :

  • 31 percent of Americans who have combined their finances say they’ve lied to their spouse about money,
  • 67 percent of those people said it caused arguments,
  • 16 percent broke up as a result,
  • 80 percent of couples spent secret money, and
  • Nearly 20 percent had a secret credit card.

If you want to avoid money disagreements in your relationship, it’s important to cultivate understanding. Learning one another’s money stories is an especially effective way to do so.

Final Thoughts on Learning Your Partner’s Money Story

Understanding your partner’s money story and values will help clarify how and why your partner makes financial decisions. This can help bring you both to a common ground, which is necessary when you begin looking at your financial future and how you’ll accomplish your shared goals.

Although getting the conversation started can feel awkward, I truly believe couples benefit when they take the time to discuss money matters through the lens of understanding. When you approach financial conversations in this way, with an open mind and an open heart, you strengthen both your relationship and your financial health.

If you enjoyed this article, check out my book! In Flourish Financially, I share more guidance on how to have better money conversations with the people you love.

About the Author

Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA®

Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA®

Kathy Longo brings over 25 years of expertise and experience to Flourish Wealth Management. Kathy is wholly dedicated to improving the life of each client and finds joy in making complex matters simple and easy to understand. She excels at asking the right questions, uncovering new possibilities and implementing the most advantageous strategies for success. Playing such a pivotal role in her clients’ lives remains an honor and a privilege. After earning a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling from Purdue University, she began her career at a small firm in Palatine, Illinois where she worked directly with clients while learning to build a viable, client-centric business. Over the years, she gained extensive knowledge and wisdom working as a wealth manager, financial planner, firm manager and business owner at notable, various sized companies in both Chicago and Minneapolis.

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