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The control money has over what we can and cant do means it will always influence our relationships; so we need to get better talking about it.

How do you begin talking about money with your partner (and avoid the shouting?)

The problem with money is it’s an important part of our life and can’t be ignored, and most people have been taught to ignore it - to the extent talking about money can be the source of serious relationship problems.

You don’t have to be an expert to understand that money is one of the major contributing factors leading to separation.

And you thought it was just about the money

But when you look closer at money matters, it’s usually not the money that creates the issue, but rather our views surrounding it – like our own financial values and whether or not they’re compatible with our partners.

And let’s face it, arguments about money can be more intense than others.

Read in this article

The clash of values

For most people, the way we think about our money embodies some of our personal values, so is it any wonder problems can arise when these values clash with our partner.

  • If one person believes it’s important to pay out the mortgage as soon as possible, while
  • the other person believes it’s important to have family holidays overseas every two years,

because you can't do both, conflict naturally arises.

Learning how to have better conversations about money matters with your partner

First, make sure you’ve thought about your own relationship with money and what was your history of how money was talked about (or not) in your family.

It’s important to understand your own pre-behaviours about money matters because, as I discussed in my series of articles about Moneyisms;

'Without an understanding of these pre‑behaviours about money and what they mean to you, no amount of financial planning advice or education can change your attitudes and behaviours about money'Drew Browne

So where do you start?

If there’s a helpful memory you can share with your partner, that might be a respectful way to start a money conversion.

You can read about my own problems with Strawberries and the conflicting messages I received as a child about spending and saving.

Start with the basics – are you a Saver or a Spender?

Let’s start with your own relationship with money and see if you’re more a saver or a spender?

  • Once you've thought about that, why not share it with your partner next date night.
  • From there you’d want to discover more about each other’s inherent values and belief systems that come from their own relationship with money.

Get used to the idea that our individual experiences with money as a child have probably helped form part of our attitudes towards it today.

Similar habits but different motivations

People can have similar habits, but habits are often driven by different ideas and drives.

  • Discovering the drivers and the ideas behind a habit or behaviour in your partner is the most interesting part of a money conversation with them.

Have a deliberate conversation to better understand your partners' relationship with money matters. Otherwise, you’re just left to make an assumption about an important part of their life and upbringing, and that’s not good for any relationship built upon equality and trust.

Some helpful questions when talking about money matters.

Remember a conversation is a two-way interaction so remember to acknowledge each other’s different backgrounds and experiences with money.

Six helpful money questions to ask yourself and your partner

  1. What're your three earliest memories about learning about money?
  2. Did your family talk about money?
  3. Who were the spenders and savers in your family?
  4. Did you have pocket money
  5. What makes you feel financially secure?
  6. What key event occurred (or did not occur) in your family due to money matters?

When it comes to personal money management, it’s a rookie mistake to think there are only right and wrong ways. Different situations needs and plans all require different.

The level of financial flexibility we have usually increases with our understanding of what’s financially possible, so make sure you're keeping in touch with your financial adviser.

With attitudes towards money, it's more than just personality and quirks

Why do I talk about savers and spenders with my clients?

  • It’s one of the foundational behaviours you need to understand when you’re investing in shares or managed funds, buying a property, whether it’s your own or an investment (the behaviour and attitudes are very different between them).
  • It’s a key personal driver why some people are particularly good at recognising the need to protect and provide and why others seem to take a more speculative and hopeful approach – until they start losing money.

Becoming better at understanding why different people have different approaches to money and recognising the spender and saver drivers in our lives, is key to becoming more Life Confident.

Nobody stays the same forever

The more we learn new skills and learn more about ourselves, people usually continue to grow and develop even better ways of approaching their money matters.

Life doesn’t get better – you just become better at learning how to better manage itDrew Browne

Warning: Financial Rant Ahead

Savers stuck on savings will risk frugality becoming miserly and making miserable everyone around them who don’t save discount coupons, recycle or who buys steak over mince or wine over water.

  • You can be a great saver and have multiple rainy-day funds, but savers are not always able to recognise when it’s raining (or even when it's pouring) as the spending of what’s been saved can trigger irrational loss aversion.
  • Spenders stuck on spending can dissolve a relationship and spend their way to the poorhouse fast because spending someone else’s money (or somebody else’s credit) can encourage them.
  • You can be a frugal spender and a powerhouse of buying wholesale and getting discounts for cash, but spenders are not always able to recognise when modifying their propensity to spend can actually help them achieve greater buying power later. Saving for a spender often doesn’t sound rational or make great sense.

Both skills can become a fixation and whether it’s a vow of poverty or incessant hoarding – both are actually similar in their pathology – their underlying drive can be avoiding learning how to live responsibly and develop personal money skills that will allow them and their loved ones to successfully navigate through their financial lives.

We all need money skills that can flex and change to suit our circumstances and plans.

Phew. Rant finished.

Becoming Life Confident

There is no right or wrong in the spender saver arguments, just an opportunity to better understand how you and your partner are probably different because you grew up in a different home probably with different Moneyisms

How you approach this understanding will model behaviours for your kids that can be helpful or less than helpful to their understanding about money basics.

For too long we were taught not to talk about money. So now we have poorly developed skills about talking moneyDrew Browne

In my next article 8 Things couples can do to talk about money better, I build on the concepts of talking about money matters to suggest ways a couple to move that conversation into action.


author pic drew browneDrew Browne is a specialty Financial Risk Advisor working with Small Business Owners & their Families, Dual Income Professional Couples, and diverse families. He's an award-winning writer, speaker, financial adviser and business strategy mentor. His business Sapience Financial Group is committed to using business solutions for good in the community. In 2015 he was certified as a B Corp., and in 2017 was recognised in the inaugural Australian National Businesses of Tomorrow Awards. Today he advises Small Business Owners and their families, on how to protect themselves, from their businesses.  He writes for successful Small Business Owners and Industry publications. You can read his Modern Small Business Leadership Blog here. You can connect with him on LinkedIn Any information provided is general advice only and we have not considered your personal circumstances. Before making any decision on the basis of this advice you should consider if the advice is appropriate for you based on your particular circumstance.

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