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Love, Marriage, and Money: Five Steps to Better Relationships

Creating better relationships is all about communication. Talking about the difficult things where we are the most vulnerable can bring the greatest rewards. Your spouse is probably your best ally and cheerleader in every other aspect of your life, but money gets complicated. It goes back in time to our parents and childhoods and goes forward to our fears for the future.

Having conversations that can break through barriers and strengthen our bonds so that goals can be joint projects requires thoughtful planning and guardrails.

These simple steps, practiced over time, can help you build your shared money framework.

Set Aside Time, Consistently and Regularly

When you have careers and kids and pets and plans, time is the most valuable thing. Unfortunately, money conversations don’t usually take priority unless something happens – and it’s not usually winning the lottery or getting a big raise.

Rule 1: Don’t have a conversation sparked by a problem. It won’t go well.

Carve out time when you both will have positive energy. Try to pair it with a reward. Schedule a walk, a date night, or a family activity and slot the money convo in one hour before. Now you have something positive to look forward to, and you’ve created a guardrail on behavior.

This is meant to be a meaningful conversation where you get things done and set tasks, so doing it at the end of a long week or late at night when you’re both tired isn’t the right frame of mind and could set you up for a bad outcome.

An excellent initial cadence is a weekly financial review, and as you get comfortable communicating and objectives are consistently met, you can move to monthly and then quarterly. It’s all about mutual trust.

Change the Environment

You want a relaxing setting, where you won’t be interrupted. Taking the conversation out of the home, where you and your partner typically discuss and engage on problems and difficulties, can set you up for a more open, relaxed discussion. Go to a coffee shop you both like, take a walk, or choose a special place that holds good memories. This subliminally reminds you of the bond you have with your significant other. It can change the narratives and leads to positive interactions. That’s what builds good outcomes.

Forgive and Forget

Rule 2: The Past is The Past. Don’t bring it up; look to the future and only carry forward lessons learned. Whether it’s an investment mistake, an impulsive indulgence that turned into expensive debt, or a purchase or financial decision that was more about one partner’s own needs, leave it in the past.

If you’re still dealing with the fallout: get a plan in place to fix it, don’t point fingers, and other than ensuring that the plan is on track, don’t refer to it.

The Fun Stuff: Goals

Sharing and achieving financial goals is one of the most satisfying elements of your money plan. It’s all part of the life you build together, from big things like retirement, retiring early, a second home, and kids’ education to more minor things like saving for an annual vacation or creating a fund to purchase art. These are your memories. You’ll undoubtedly enjoy the actual goal – but working together to achieve it creates a stronger bond.

Creating a plan of action means having a very clear understanding of your shared goals. Start by creating a timeline and slotting in both short-term priorities and long-term (but achievable) goals. Budgeting doesn’t have to be about scarcity. It can feel like abundance when you are ticking off short-term goals and seeing progress on long-term ones. Small “wins” early on can build momentum. Try paying off a small credit card debt or adding $1,000 to an emergency fund for auto repairs or vet bills. Knowing you can meet problems helps you navigate life’s twists and turns without stress – or strife.

Trust the Process

We all want to lose those last ten pounds we put on. But when you’re stepping on the scale twice a day and not seeing it move, it’s easy to get frustrated. The good feeling you get from sticking to a diet and getting regular exercise puts you in a better frame of mind day-to-day than the numbers on the scale. Money is the same. Focus on modifying daily habits, sticking to the plan, and checking in only on your scheduled meetings.

Just like you have strategies for not snacking and motivating yourself to exercise, build ones for keeping your financial regimen on track. One popular strategy is the “72-hour test” – before buying something unplanned, wait three days and see if you have the same conviction.

Reward Yourselves!

This is the bonus sixth step: Be sure to reward yourselves for milestone achievements! Your dedication should be celebrated; this will enforce the positive shifts in behavior and attitudes towards money. If you have kids, including them in both the journey and the rewards can build family memories and positive money mindfulness.

We’re passionate about working with clients to help them achieve their financial goals. Let’s do it together. Schedule a call with us today.

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