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Couples’ Finance — Competing Priorities. What Should You Do?

Couples’ Finance — Competing Priorities. What Should You Do?

What should you and your partner do if you have competing goals and priorities?

Conflicting Values

Here are some ideas:

Bringing It All Together

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What Are You Taking With You Into 2022?

What Are You Taking With You Into 2022?

It was December 2020 last year and I distinctly recall the voices of hope expressed collectively across the globe that 2021 would be different from 2020. Let’s face it, 2020 may go down as the worse year of the decade, if not the century!

And in the same breath, we voiced the hope for the new year. How did we think that a day would make a difference? That we’d wake up on January 1, and suddenly things would be different.

That we would eradicate the pandemic and that with Donald Trump gone, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would make things, right? Much as I recall feeling some degree of renewed faith in a better world with the new leadership, we all know that things don’t change overnight.

December 2021 is almost upon us. Covid 19 is still with us. We have had three different variants of covid. And masks are still required in most public places. We have started to normalize this pandemic and all that came with it — after all, life does go on.

What have you normalized?

On an individual note, why is it so hard to change? What have you normalized? It is not about New Year’s resolutions since we know how ineffective those are.

If you are reading this, you have lived through many New Year’s Eve’s. With great intentions that things will change — we’ll save more, eat healthily, exercise regularly, invest in our dreams, spend quality time with our family, and improve the quality of our lives.

How are you doing? In what ways have you improved the overall quality of your life, your finances, and your relationships? Has anything changed at all?

How much have things changed over the past five years?

And why not? Are you any closer to completing that novel you started to write five years ago? Is your weight where you had hoped it would be three years ago? Are your significant relationships giving you the intimacy you desired two years ago when you both first got together? Are you settling? Have you started saving money towards your goals?

And, what about the promise to yourself to not sweat the small stuff? Or the promise to be more mindful? To be present. To savor life. To be kinder to those around you. And what about the pursuit for more joy?

Do the things that triggered you ten years ago still trigger you today?

So much has changed yet so much remains the same.

When you do a look back on your life, does it look like much has changed yet so much still remains the same? Travel has certainly changed. More sanitization for one. Yet some things remain the same — people are still people — they can get frustrated, impatient, and rude.

How to make long-lasting change.

Nothing changes if nothing changes! Talking about change is not change — but it is one step towards change. So, how do we make long-lasting change?

  • Decide what you want to change.
  • Know exactly why you want to change.
  • See yourself through the identity of someone who has already made the change.
  • Create a step-by-step plan on how to get there.
  • Take immediate action towards that goal.
  • Get support.
  • And Accountability.
  • If this is an outcome that can be measured, then measure the change.

Speeding towards change

I used to speed whenever I drove. And yes, I racked up a lot of speeding tickets. This did not  deter me from speeding.

However, when my daughters started to learn how to drive (no, I did not teach them — I hired a driving instructor), I decided I wanted to be a better example to them. I had to consciously make an effort to drive slower. I got the support and accountability from my family to help me keep to the speed limit.

Five years later, I was pleasantly surprised when during a drive to California, my daughter said to me, “mom, you sure changed your style of driving.” I asked her what she meant and she said, “You stopped speeding and are more considerate to other drivers.”

Make sure it matters to you

For some of you, this may not be a big deal. But for me, my driving represented my life! There is a lot to be said about a person by the way they drive. The tools I used to slow down my driving rippled to other areas of my life. I learned to savor, not speed, reflect and not react, pause and

What are some of your intentions for 2022? How much does it matter to you whether you achieved it or not?

December 31, 2021

What if, you took the first step towards a more compelling life? What if, on December 31 2022 you looked back at how you lived the year and felt it was the best year of your life? What would that look like?

How would you like the next 365 days to look for you?

Am I Ruminating or Problem Solving?

Am I Ruminating or Problem Solving?

The way you think influences the way you feel and the way you feel influences the way you think. It’s a cycle that can be hard to break. Your feelings affect your energy and perception of your reality.

Most people focus on areas in their lives, relationships, and circumstances that are short of their ideal. Essentially, areas that they are unhappy with. Unfortunately this keeps you there — in the unhappy circustances.

The Way You Think and Feel

When you’re feeling sad, you may look at all the things that are going wrong in your life, engage in self-criticism, and predict things are going to end poorly. The more you think about sad things, the worse you feel. The worse you feel, the more you think about sad things. If you want to change your reality, start by changing the way you think and the way you feel. Yes, sometimes it is easier said than done.

Stop It

When you find yourself in a negative state, ask yourself, “Am I ruminating or problem-solving?” If you’re dwelling on the problem, you’re ruminating. If you’re actively looking for solutions, you are problem-solving. Problem-solving moves you forward, ruminating holds you back.

The following can help interrupt your ruminating thoughts:

  • Get involved in an activity that requires some serious mental energy for at least a few minutes. It’s a healthy distraction.
  • Find someone to talk to about a completely different subject from one you’re ruminating.
  • Avoid negative people. Energy is ‘contagious’ — whether positive or negative.
  • Sit down and plan your next vacation.
  • Engage in a hobby.
  • Journal the outcomes you want out of a different life!
  • Take a walk in nature. Notice what’s around you as you go on your walk.
  • Stay fully present.

 

Jennifer Thompson

Do What Works For You

The key is to find something that works for you. You may need to experiment with a few different strategies until you find the activity that best helps you change the channel in your brain.

If you’re having a difficult time getting troubling images out of your head, or you always dwell on the negative, seek professional help. Talking to a therapist could help you think and feel differently.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

This process is not about ignoring the issues in your life. This is not about ignoring your feelings. Whatever you resist will persist.

Acknowledging you are feeling bad, or depressed, is necessary. But you get to decide how long you want to stay in that energy of negativity.

Be honest with yourself. What part of you wants to stay in that negativity? And what parts of you wants to move away from this stagnation? Honour all parts of you, but master the parts that lead you to your destiny.

Money Talk With Your Partner

Money Talk With Your Partner

Talking about money can be a challenge for many couples. According to a Stress in America survey released in 2015 by the American Psychological Association (APA), about a third of adults with partners reported that money is a significant source of conflict in their relationship. This was the case no matter how much the couple earned!

They often cited disagreements over money as one of the main reasons people get divorced. This conflict continues even after the divorce. According to Dan Courvette, publisher of Divorce Magazine, “the two most contentious issues during a divorce are finances and children — in that order.”This is unfortunte, considering we live in one of the wealthiest regions in the world.

A survey conducted by the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) of Canada in 2016 found that two-thirds of the 1000 Canadians interviewed said they still had concerns about their finances.

Talking About Money

Yet many people are uncomfortable talking about money. This could very well be part of the problem. A poll conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave in 2018 suggested that 61% of women surveyed would rather talk about the details of their death than speak about money. 61% of women surveyed would rather talk about a one-off event than talk about money, a subject that affects most aspects of their lives daily.

Money touches most aspects of our lives. Avoiding the subject of money in your significant relationship can only add to this stress. So, how can a couple talk about money affectively?

As a financial advisor for over twenty years, I have observed hundreds of couples navigate money within their relationships. And the three qualities that make some couples more successful discussing money than others are transparency, good communication skills and respect.

Transparency

Trust is the basis of any successful relationship. Renowned marriage therapist and author, John Gottman, examined couples from all over the country and discovered that trust and betrayal were the most important issues to arise between partners. Transparency builds trust.

Financial Infidelity

Fidelity is a quality we desire in a partner. And sexual infidelity is not the only form of betrayal. We can also betray our partners through financial infidelity. Financial Infidelity is when one spouse makes significant financial decisions that impact the financial future of the other. A good example of transparency would be to tell your future partner about the amount of debt you carry.

Let me give you an example here.

Jessica called her banker to instruct him not to reveal to her husband the $20,000 credit card debt she accumulated from helping a ‘friend.’

Her husband had come in to see their banker to refinance their existing home to complete renovations on their new property.

She had asked the banker if her debt would affect their ability to refinance their home.

Of course, it would! Both their names were on their home! One partner’s debt would affect their household total debt servicing ratios, which determines the amount of credit for which they can qualify. As a couple, there is the understanding that your actions have consequences on your partner and relationship.

And how does trust show up for a couple in relation to their finances? It’s the feeling of knowing your partner has your back when making financial decisions.

Good Communication

Good communication between partners is the second quality necessary for successfully tackling conversations around money.

Money is a highly emotional issue. A couple facing financial challenges may find it difficult to communicate about money without getting emotional. Because it’s never just about money. Money is security, freedom, and ease. And for some people, money is also power and control.

You need to decide as a couple how much of the other person’s financial situation you need to know for you to feel safe. What’s the threshold for which you or your partner can spend before you need to consult each other? That each of you discuss a potential purchase if it costs  more than $100?

Keep things separate or bring them together?

If you both decide to keep everything separate, that’s fine, but it’s something entirely different when the one person with $100,000 in unsecured debt wants to have their joint home refinanced to pay off that revolving debt.

It gets more complicated with bleded families. Would your partner like to know how much money you’re giving an adult child from a previous marriage? Will it affect your finances as a couple?

Discuss your attitudes towards money early in the relationship. Communicate about the way you feel regarding your financial concerns. Decide how you would like to resolve conflicts in your finances, especially concerning competing priorities.

Respect

Respect each other’s differences. Respect tour partner’s vision for your lives — as individuals and as a couple. What legacy do you want to leave your family, your community?

Discover what your core values are as individuals. Do you manage your money in alignment with what you value? Does your partner share your values?

There are also differences in personality types in a person’s approach to money. What happens when a spender marries a saver?

Compatibility in handling money is often not one of the first few qualities that individuals are consciously looking for in a mate. A partner with a good income may be of an attractive quality, but it means nothing if that same person is constantly living in overdraft.

What can you do differently?

There are a few things you can do to nurture greater openness in dealing with your finances.

Money talk should start early in the relationship.

When I say that money talk should start early in a relationship it does not mean presenting your net worth or cash flow statements on the first date. Start the conversation by discussing your relationship with money. What does money mean to you? How do you feel about debt?What’s your partner’s interpretation of risk? How did your respective families deal with conflicts around money?

As the relationship grows, share your dreams.

Talk openly about your vision for your lives. Share your dreams as individuals and as a couple. Most dreams require a financial commitment. How can you support your partner in achieving her goals? What does wealth look like for each of you?

Work on a financial road map together.

Once you’ve shared your dreams, create a financial plan to help you achieve those goals. How will you tackle conflicting priorities? You may feel uneasy about the potential financial sacrifice if your partner is considering going back to school to pursue higher education.

Listening to your partner shows you care. I suspect that if you get your finances straightened out and talk openly about it, other areas of your relationship will also benefit from this.

Bringing It All Together

Most people I know are more comfortable undressing on a first date than discussing their finances. We generally have a tough time talking about money.

Conflicts over money are one of the main reasons couples separate. It’s not the money that causes the conflict, but the threat to what we value most. And the differences in our approach to money. A person with the need for safety and security will feel threatened by their partner’s carefree nature with nature and judge it as reckless.

With open communication, transparency and respect, couples can nurture a safe place where they can safely talk about money and discuss their concerns without judgement. This may even bring them closer together.

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