finance

'I help people fix their finances and relationships. Here are 3 money tips for couples.'

“We have a totally different relationship now. We actually have conversations about money, instead of arguments.”

The first time one of our students told me that, I felt truly victorious. 

See, a few years ago, I started a financial education platform to help people get on top of their finances. Today, hundreds of our students have done a complete 180 on their financial lives through SkilledSmart’s Mastering Money program.

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Yes, the financial outcomes are amazing. Many of our students save thousands (sometimes tens of thousands of dollars) in a matter of months. 

But my favourite thing to see is the ripple effect of benefits this has on the rest of their lives. One I’ve heard a number of times is the positive impact on their relationship with their partner.

Now, I’m not out here trying to save marriages but this is still a big win considering that money is one of the leading causes of conflict in relationships.

Here, I’m sharing three tips that can help couples have better money conversations.

1. Create ‘financial intimacy.’

The natural tendency is to jump straight into a conversation about the numbers, but that’s a bit like talking about marriage on the first date. 

Just because the finances are what you eventually need to deal with, doesn’t mean that’s where you start. You start by creating a safe space to talk about money in the relationship. 

You do that by having non-judgmental conversations about money.

Explore each other’s financial past. What was their experience of money growing up? What were their parents like with money? How did that make them feel? What funny, embarrassing, sad memories do they have about money? And of course, you share your own stories too! 

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This is one of the first things our students learn. They go through a process of unpacking their ‘money baggage’, and that can change the whole tone of money conversations with their partner. It helps build understanding and empathy (and helps reduce criticism and judgement). 

Instead of criticising your partner for their spending, maybe you’ll learn that they grew up with very little and now feel like they need to make up for lost time, or maybe you’ll learn that their parents showed love by spoiling them so that’s what they think love looks like? 

You want to work towards feeling emotionally safe to talk about money with each other, without the fear of judgement or criticism.

This can be challenging when it feels like the house is on fire, you have real financial stresses, and now you’re sitting in a burning house talking about… feelings?! 

Sometimes that’s the fastest way to change the situation. Ever noticed that when you demand change, people dig their heels in? But when people feel safe and understood, they’re more open to change? 

If this sounds like some kind of ‘financial therapy’, you’d be right. That’s exactly what it is. 

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2. Remember that you’re on the same team. 

Imagine you’re playing doubles tennis. You’re mid-game and your partner starts flagging. They’re not pulling their weight. They’re missing balls. 

You start getting really frustrated. What do you do? 

You’re probably not going to start fighting in the middle of the game, right? 

That’s what a lot of people do when it comes to money. They turn against each other. And I get it, when you have completely different approaches… it’s frustrating. But it’s not helpful. 

Going back to the sports analogy, no one is going to be perfect. Maybe your teammate is fast but short. Or maybe they’ve got excellent aim, but their stamina isn’t as good as yours.

You have to work with (not against) the strengths and weaknesses of your partner. You have to find the strategies that work for your team based on your collective strengths and weaknesses. 

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3. Realise that people often behave in alignment with their level of financial education. 

In many relationships, one partner is more interested in the finances than the other. This can create a bit of a ‘gap’, and this gap can create some friction.

The more financially interested partner may be the one pushing to improve the finances. They may feel held back by their less interested partner (who might be more risk averse, or might be engaging in financial behaviours that seem irresponsible). 

The solution isn’t pushing, nagging, criticising, demanding. It’s also not charging ahead and making all the decisions without involving your partner. Those are short-term tactics.

The best long-term strategy I’ve found is… you guessed it: Financial education. 

Am I biased? Obviously. I’ve watched literally hundreds of people do a complete 180 on their financial behaviours through our program. So, I know it works. 

See, if your partner is scared of investing, maybe it’s because they don’t understand it. If they are overspending, maybe they think that’s what you’re supposed to do (“why earn money if you can’t spend it?”) and don’t understand how wealth creation works.

Supporting the less financially involved partner in becoming more financially educated will help them feel more confident, and more able to participate in conversations in a meaningful way. 

In the long-run, this is going to help you operate more like a team, collaborating on your finances together, instead of one partner “pulling” the other along. 

If you’re the more educated partner, be patient and encouraging of your partner in their financial education journey. Be willing to slow the conversation down and answer their questions. 

If you’re the less educated partner, be willing to step into the discomfort of this unfamiliar terrain, be willing to ask for the help, support, and patience that you need. 

If all of this sounds like hard work, just remember… living in a state of constant conflict, or breaking up, aren’t ‘easy’ options either. So, choose your ‘hard’.

Paridhi Jain is the founder of SkilledSmart, an independent financial education platform helping adults learn to save and invest their money. For more money tips, you can grab a free e-book on “5 Money Mistakes Costing You Thousands” via their  website, and follow them on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia.

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