By Christine Moriarty
If “money can’t buy happiness,” does “love have anything to do with it?” It turns out both are keys to improving the quality of your life. A 2004 study on quality of life by William Fleeson, associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, found that if one’s marriage is going well, overall one’s life is better. “More than any other area,” he explained, “it is rare to have a high-quality life without having a high-quality close relationship.”
What was second on the list of quality of life predictors? Financial stability.
It naturally follows that if you have a good financial partnership, your life is better. Whether you are married or with a life partner, money plays a role in your relationship, and it is worth investing time and energy into your financial partnership to improve one’s life for the long term. Yet, most couples fall short in this arena.
For the majority of couples, money is harder to talk about than sex. They do not discuss money because the topic carries so much emotional weight. In addition, some couples may not understand enough about financial issues to know where to begin a conversation. Or, one person might believe the other knows a lot more and should manage all pieces of their financial togetherness.
The truth is, unless both individuals in the couple have input and understand their money, they are not likely to stand on solid ground. Sharing money is about as intimate as a couple can get outside the bedroom. With our money is our hopes, dreams, histories, and foibles, and without this financial transparency you cannot truly build a joint future.
The reality is that the old rules do not make sense in today’s world. Marriages and partnerships are more complex. Merging households and merging lifestyles are so different than when earlier generations coupled up or married young. Now, a couple may have previous marriages, stepchildren, and prior financial commitments to consider. Understanding these differences is the first step toward recognizing that your life and your partnership is your own modern-day creation. As a result, so does your financial life need to be uniquely formed—by each of you—to create that quality of life we all strive for. This takes some time and effort but is possible.
Making decisions together will make a difference to your financial life. Remembering that you are on a financial journey with your partner may be the key to financial and relationship success, most of all, your happiness. With a little effort you and your partner can improve the quality of years together.
Strengthen your financial communication and quality of life together by following these tips:
Talk as a team
If you have never talked finances before with your partner, now is the time to start. But take it slow. Set aside time—an hour—when you will not be interrupted. Talk about your feelings and thoughts of where you are financially. There is no right or wrong. Agree to regular conversations once a week, where you will move into more details and changes. Take it one step at a time.
Maintain some shared money
While keeping an account for yourself, sharing expenses and a checkbook establishes and maintains a camaraderie and communication that otherwise might not reinforce the team nature of your partnership.
Set spending rules
Agree to discuss all expenditures over a certain amount, say $100. That way the purchaser has to slow down before they make an impulse decision. The partner will not feel left out on the buying decision, and it becomes a “win-win” for your pocketbook and your relationship.
Choose priorities with understanding
As a couple, you each have treasured expenses that may serve your individual interests. Each of you should be able to pick an expense that is sacred. This may be his monthly night out with the guys for brews and a ball game and your regular pottery class. Even if this is “separate” money, understanding the importance can help your love life.
Ask for help
Having an outside financial team that can give a couple objective advice can sometimes smooth out the rough patches. This may range from a tax professional to a Certified Financial Planner ™ to a therapist. Knowing there are resources out there to help you can make all the difference in the world. You are not alone.
C.D. Moriarty is a financial author, speaker, and educator. She is dedicated to empowering others around their money so they can achieve their dreams. She can be found through her website, MoneyPeace.com