It’s pretty hard to ignore data that says that couples who fight about money have a significantly higher divorce rate than couples who do not. If you’re married (past or present) or in a serious relationship, chances are you’ve had a few money fights yourself.
Having disagreements about money is a normal thing. But how they are handled is the important piece. If you are in a relationship where you regularly disagree about money, or are silent in money matters, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Over a decade ago, I secretly got my husband and I in $40,000 of debt. Well, we made it through. We are completely debt-free now and planning for our future together — as a team. If you’ve been wondering how you and your significant other can get on the same page about money, here are a few very valuable pieces of information we learned along the way.
1. Take a step back, look at the BIG picture.
If you have a goal to make the relationship work well, don’t start out by focusing on the day-to-day. Take a step back. If you both were honest with each other, you’d find that you actually do agree on the big picture.
No one says, ‘Ya know, I think by the time I’m 65, I want to have piles of debt, no retirement fund and an empty bank account.’
Most people I’ve talked to actually err on the side of worrying that they’ll be OK when the time comes to retire. You and your spouse ultimately want to have some financial security in your later years. Everyone does. You agree on that. Use this as the first piece of common financial ground and lay claim to it together. How you will journey there takes a little more work, but it will be worth it.
2. Discover their desires
One of the very first steps I make all the students in my Financial Renovation eCourse do is to fill out a Financial Bucket List. It is simply a list of financially centered goals you want to achieve before you ‘kick the bucket.’
You and your spouse each fill one out separately. Then, compare your responses. I think you’ll probably learn something new about your spouse, and maybe get surprised about some secret goals they’ve always had. You also might think some of their responses are silly, but they may feel the same way about some of yours too.
Here’s a few of the categories on our Financial Bucket List:
- Education – College funds for your kids? Additional schooling for you?
- Housing – Is there a size of house you’d like? Location?
- Retirement – How much money would you like saved up by then?
You can make up your own categories as well, but ultimately realize that many long-term goals that are in your heart may actually cost some money to make happen.
Ask yourself, will you ever make it there on your present course ?
3. Listen in order to understand
This is a very important step. Your spouse has put maybe some of the deepest desires of their heart down on a piece of paper. They’ve opened up. Be careful how you respond.
Actually… at first, don’t respond. Ask them to share about their goals. Listen to them. Hear them. Understand why that is a goal of their life. Find value in it.
Deep thought of the day: How many of their Financial Bucket List goals involve you? Probably almost all of them. They want to live in that house with you. They want to finally take that trip to Europe with you. Right now, they have it in their heart to be with you until one of you ‘kicks the bucket.’ Think about that a little while. Let that gushiness sink in. Their long-term life goals include you.
4. Come up with short-term and long-term plans
Combine your lists. Now try and prioritize the list. This may cause a little debate, so remember to keep it light and try to value each other’s goals. Come up with an approximate dollar amount for each.
Determine which goals are short-term (5-10 years), and which are long term (11-30 years). Figure out how you want to save for and accomplish these goals. Do you want to have small separate funds for each? Do you want to just start saving for one, then once you’re reached your goal, start on the next? A little of both? Come up with a rough plan of attack to reach these goals.
You might have to do a little math. For instance, If you want to have $10,000 in a wedding fund for your daughter in 10 years, you’ll have to save about $85 a month (interest not included).
5. Free up money
Many families are already financially maxed out and don’t see how they can save or plan for anything else. Clark has plenty of ideas on how to cut expenses and start freeing up money in your budget. There are also tons of ways to make extra money on the side. Here’s 26 to get you started. If you want to reach goals in your life, you will not get there by accident. It will take focus, hard work and intentionality.
If you aren’t budgeting, you have to start. This is a non-negotiable. Once you start budgeting and tracking your expenses, you’ll be astounded as to where your money was going. Give your money a real plan, and use it as a tool to make your goals become reality.
6. Fight for one another’s dreams
When you start taking ownership over your spouse’s dreams and begin to treat them as your own dreams, something powerful happens. It will strengthen your relationship and build confidence in them and in you. I think this is for two reasons. 1) Real lasting love serves and sacrifices for others, and 2) Generally, it is easier to have more confidence for other people’s dreams than your own. Use that to your mutual advantage.
This is because we tend to magnify our own faults and shortcomings, but see the strengths and good qualities in those we love. It is easy to have a lot of self-doubt and second-guessing related to things you want to accomplish. Most people don’t run into those roadblocks when fighting for another’s goal.
Start believing in each other’s goals and fight for them. It builds your confidence tremendously when other people believe in you and fight for you. Begin doing that for each other. When I was first starting my website years ago, I could never have done it if my husband wasn’t right there, cheering me on, helping me solve problems and believing in me. It made all the difference.
7. Check your progress and stay positive
If you want to accomplish things, you have to set a goal. Having shared financial goals with your spouse will give you both something to accomplish together. Since you are sharing the goal, you can stay focused by holding each other accountable and encouraging one another in the hard times. If you get discouraged, pull that Financial Bucket List back out. Remember why you wanted to do this to begin with.
Look over the progress you made. Are you on pace to reach your goal? Do you need to step it up? Was your goal too small or too big? Are you encouraged by where you are? If you are, awesome! If you find you are a little discouraged with your progress, stay positive. Encourage each other, and adjust as needed.
Remember, even if you aren’t where you want to be, imagine where you would be if you never got on the same page at all. Progress is progress. Keep going and don’t give up!