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Be Emotionally Engaged when Discussing Finances

Published by: Jeff Hall, CFP®,CIMA® Date: March 10, 2013

With finances being one of the leading causes of divorce in our country, I anticipated there would be challenges in this area for my wife and I as we entered into our marriage 3 years ago. Thankfully, we both have the same ideas about money, religion, kids, and in-laws. I’ve always been told that if two people generally agree on those four topics, the chances of a fulfilling marriage are much higher. I definitely feel this is true for us. However, as I reflect on the past 3 years, I can also say the issue of finances has presented challenges for us as a married couple.

When it comes to putting aside money, my wife and I sometimes see things differently. As a full-time mom, my wife views money as a means to invest in the well-being of our household on a day-to-day basis. From my perspective, setting aside money is an investment in our family’s future so that we can have options down the road. We agree both are important, but like most couples, we emotionally prioritize each one differently and that’s where the disconnect can begin. I’ve learned to bridge this gap it’s important to first identify what emotional meaning money brings to us individually. As financial author Tim Maurer wrote, “Personal finance is more personal than finance.” But beyond that, what emotion does money foster in us? Love? Self-worth? Security? Power? Attractiveness? Once we find the answer, all the other stuff that couples should be doing like setting financial priorities, budgeting, and goal setting is much easier.

One of the many roles my wife handles since we were married is overseeing our agreed upon monthly budget. I’ve joked before that I may be a CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™), but my wife is our family’s CFO (Chief Financial Officer). After our recent home purchase, we had repeated discussions about finances, and I realized we had a major disconnect. The problem wasn’t that we disagreed on this issue; the problem was I wasn’t emotionally involved when the checks got written. I trusted her with the details but she wanted me involved in the process with her. Once I started sitting down with her again to pay the bills, I noticed I was much more inclined to think before I made purchases and our communication about money was much more agreeable.

Long-time Christian financial counselor Larry Burkett said, “money is either the best or the worst area of communication in our marriages.”

I’d suggest that you think about the following things when dealing with financial discussions with a spouse:

• Be self-aware about what emotions are driving your thoughts on money and willing to sharing them.
• Be open to communicate about money with your spouse.
• Take time to celebrate financial accomplishments as a family.

Success in communicating about money is just as important as success in handling money. Being emotionally engaged in the financial process with your spouse is even more important to a fulfilling marriage.

Jeff Hall, CFP® is a partner and Senior Financial Advisor with Rather & Kittrell. He is available at