What’s your plans for this lockdown Valentine’s Day? Restaurant owners will be counting the cost of lost business as the ‘stay at home’ guidance drags on, but maybe you’ll be planning a romantic dinner at home?
It could be the ideal opportunity to talk about something many of us avoid – not money, as such, but longer-term goals that you would both like to plan towards. Of course, working out how to pay for these goals brings the conversation back to finance again.
A quick internet search shows that money is one of the top reasons for argument in couples, but the root cause can be a whole host of underlying reasons. Here are three tips to help avoid some of the most common causes of money fall-outs.
Use a joint account for shared spending and household bills
Lots of couples have a joint account, but the trick is to use the account in the right way. Because it’s so uncommon for partners to earn a similar level of income, tension can often arise when it’s all bundled up and shared absolutely.
Rather than use a joint account for all income and spending, it may work better for each partner to have their own, individual account for their salary or pension, then use a joint account for all household essentials like the mortgage or rent, bills and food etc. Standing order payments towards joint goals like holidays and savings can also come out of that account. You just need to agree a fair amount that each of you should pay into the joint account each month to cover all the payments.
That leaves each partner with a degree of autonomy and complete control of their remaining income. Of course, you have to make sure you don’t over-spend your remaining cash. Dipping into the joint account for personal spending takes you back into tense territory again, so it needs both parties to take responsibility.
Appreciate each other’s money personality
Everyone has a unique set of beliefs, attitudes and habits when it comes to money. They do say that opposites attract and it’s very common for couples to have diametrically opposed money personalities.
One half of the happy couple will casually click ‘buy now’ on a daily basis, while the other half threatens to cut up their cards and cancel the Amazon account. On the other hand, the spender will reach new heights of frustration at their miserly partner, who just doesn’t know how to live a little.
Neither behaviour is right or wrong and both can have a negative impact on wellbeing. The important thing is to recognise each other’s differences and to talk about it.
A useful exercise is the Money Habitudes game. It’s a popular website in the US and for a few dollars, you can each complete an online card game and receive a report on your money habits and attitudes, together with suggestions on how to develop a more balanced approach.
Discuss your long-term goals regularly
Do you remember the thrill of young love, full of chatter about an exciting future together? Aspirations of travel, exploring the outdoors, finding the ideal home, all that warm, fuzzy loveliness. Then over time, stuff gets in the way. Work, kids, family responsibilities, mortgage and loan repayments, redundancy, ill health and the list goes on.
It’s easy to lose the excitement of those early dreams and we just assume it’ll happen later on – maybe at retirement age. One day.
But don’t forget what brought you together in the first place. Discuss common ground, revive the excitement of planning for the future and even though certain goals may be years away, talk about them and plan for them.
Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Unfulfilled goals can be a source of resentment, so make time to listen to each other’s goals and plan for them together.
Planning for the future can be tricky and to truly understand your money personality can be trickier still. Financial coaching can help with each of these challenges, although you do need to be open-minded and future focused.
It doesn’t sound awfully romantic, but couples’ financial coaching could be a way to re-kindle that spark as we look ahead to a time when Covid-19 restrictions lift, and freedom returns.
Happy Valentine’s Day.