Financial Compatibility: Tips For Avoiding Marriage Problems
Money is the last taboo. Think about it. You feel comfortable discussing just about everything else; politics, religion, relationships…and share this information with just about everybody, even sometimes freely broadcasting it over any number of social media sites. So why is it so difficult to discuss finances even with those we are closest to?
The way we feel about and handle money often speaks volumes about how we see ourselves as a person. It brings to light issues regarding self worth, dependency, control and security. Money can give you a sense of accomplishment or failure. It is often confronting to bare these revealing truths to another!
While it is perfectly acceptable to say “I haven’t met the one” or “I’m focusing on other things right now” as reasons for not dating, there is no good way to say “I’m in a mountain of debt and can’t control my spending habits!”. Figures are so concrete that there is no way to spin your negative bank balance into a positive attribute!
Money difficulties in relationships are frequently cited as reasons for divorce. Although discussing money with a prospective partner is not particularly sexy, it is far more uncomfortable to argue about it with a spouse! In fact, discussing finances in your relationship can give you a great indication of their openness to communicate in general, while hesitancy to discuss could be a big red flag that they have something to hide or are just not that into you!
So what are some indicators you can use to assess your financial compatibility with a prospective partner? Firstly it is helpful to use this time to reflect about your own financial views, habits and aspirations. If you are self-aware, it will be easier to spot points of difference in your partner. Once you have a broad understanding of yourself, it is helpful to ponder which of these points are non-negotiables for you, and which you might be willing to accept another perspective on, should your partner feel differently.
The way people spend money can be a good indication of their personality style. Are they impulsive or conservative? Picture this. You are window shopping with your partner when they see something they like. Does your ideal partner discuss the features with the shop assistant, google a quick price comparison on their phone, and try to negotiate a better deal before handing over their cash? Or do their eyes light up as they point and say ‘Yep, that one!” whilst handing over their credit card? Although it might seem fun and exciting to date someone who is impulsive in the beginning, the qualities you can accept and overlook when dating change dramatically when you are looking through the marriage lens and sharing a bank account!
Hey Big Spender!
Are there any signs that your partner uses money to impress? When the cheque arrives after dinner do they casually glance at it checking everything is in order, or do they make an obvious gesture of swiping the leather pouch from the table with a big grin and slipping one of many credit cards from their wallet inside? How about fancy gifts- would they send a dozen red roses when one would suffice? Do they get perceptible pleasure from telling you about their purchases and possessions? This might make one wonder whether they are compensating for something else. Relying on showy gestures and expensive gifts to solidify a relationship may mean serious substance is missing.
But we all love to be doted on, right? Of course! There is nothing wrong with gifts and gestures. However the ‘thoughtfulness meter’ isn’t necessarily increased when the gift is an iPod dock as opposed to the book you mentioned you would be interested to read.
This principle is also true of the inverse. If your partner doesn’t splash out on a nice dinner every now and then, you would be forgiven for feeling a little disheartened. Even worse than that - scrimping on your partner whilst you spend money on yourself is a quick way to ensure a trip to splitsville!
There are some spending habits you may want to veto right off the bat. Number one: gambling. An occasional poker game with a set ‘buy-in’ may be an exception, but generally this would be an automatic disqualification for most and a trigger for a lack of financial compatibility. Gambling can be seriously addictive, so if you sniff out any indication this could become problematic, then I suggest you cut your losses right now!
Number two: that dirty word - debt. Are you aware of your prospective partner’s debt situation? Do they have any personal loans, any investments gone bad, or multiple unpaid credit cards in their wallet? What is their attitude to paying off debt? Don’t kid yourself here, some people still think money grows on trees! I’ve heard of people asking to see their partner’s credit score- this may seem extreme, but it would be great to know before you’re hitched and assume financial liability for your beloved!
Number three: ‘Overly generous’ or ‘not-generous-enough’ with their money. In some cultures it is the responsibility of family members to foot the bill when a 30-something-year-old married sibling living in another country needs a new car. You guessed it - veto from me. If you work hard for your combined income and see your partner giving it away when a ‘family emergency’ comes up every other week, this will get tedious very quickly. Similarly, when your partner insists on picking up the bar tab for their friends every Saturday night, tensions are likely to arise. Again, on the flip-side, dating someone who will not consider charitable donations or helping someone significantly in need speaks volumes about their character. Being on separate sides of the fence on this point would certainly make for a difficult relationship.
Sharing money can be a tricky thing, but not if you set up some ground rules and talk openly about your financial decisions. For instance, some couples discuss a purchase if it is over a certain amount of money. This shows a good degree of respect for your partner and will also allow you to gague financial compatibility. Others will pay bills and cost of living expenses, then divvy up leisure money to be spent individually or as a couple. Poor communication leads to overdrawn accounts and bust-ups when you walk in the front door with too many shopping bags to comfortably carry.
Sharing your financial goals can also be a great way to see if you are on the same page. Is your partner content to rent or do they want to save up and live the Aussie dream one day? Having big goals is a good thing, particularly if it involves both partners pulling together, but having lofty goals well outside of their earning capacity may give you insight into the true desires of their heart. A willingness to support each other’s viable financial goals is also encouraging. Prioritising collective financial goals can improve unity and stability in your relationship and improve the direction your bank balance is heading!
The Purse Strings
Everyone loves control, but managing the budget can be a big and often tedious responsibility! How will you navigate this minefield? Often the individual who is most financially savvy will take on this role, however this may lead to the other feeling like they’ve lost some of their independence. A good way to overcome this is for both partners to improve their financial literacy so the responsibility and control can be shouldered by both. Divide and conquer! One looks after bills while the other balances the weekly budget. Again it is essential to communicate when sharing financial responsibility.
As a very basic level, both partners should have access to funds and information about their funds at all times. If you don’t think your partner can be trusted with this maybe contemplate your future now! If you’ve already committed ‘till death do you part’ with a slightly irresponsible mate, try improving their knowledge about money and its implications before yanking control away. This will show you respect them despite their limitations and the opportunity to prove they can be trusted may even reform some of those bad habits!
For Richer, For Poorer
At some point in the relationship you will probably need to compromise on something you want. Well, that goes for most of us. If this isn’t applicable, then lucky you! Often reaching those financial goals will necessitate some sacrifices on both sides. It is important to know how your partner will handle this situation. Will they still remain cheerful while living in a one-bedroom granny flat with an irregularly sloped roof whilst saving for your house deposit? Will they commit to curb unnecessary spending when you have a brief intermission between employment? Can your relationship weather the storm of self-imposed poverty?
Going ‘without’ can be the greatest test of a person’s character, and although you may not be able to forecast their commitment to the future cause, there are some good indicators you can be looking out for to predict compatibility. For instance, what was your partner’s upbringing like? Were they indulged or did they experience being told ‘no’. Being taught the value of money young has a strong correlation with attitude to money in adult life. For instance, a child who saved up for his own bike is likely to comprehend that hard work leads to excellent rewards and takes pride in being responsible for their own financial accomplishments.
Now, if you can say hand-on-your-heart that you and your partner concur on all of these points, congratulations! You are meant to be! But…more than likely one or both of you are slightly embellishing your gift with saving, justifying your recent expenditures, and downplaying the developing addiction you have for online shopping. But not to fear. Relationships are the perfect opportunity for people to develop new skills and work on bad habits. As long as your prospective partner shares your dedication to compromise, has a flexible and open attitude, and a determination to improve together, all of the above can be attained.
We all know money can’t buy love, but being financially compatible will certainly help!