When Finances Become the Battlefield
October 23, 2017
Whether you joined the military or you married into the military, this life choice came with several battlefields. While you probably prepared yourself for wartime battlefields, you may not have considered some of the battlefields within your own home.
Every day you are faced with countless decisions affecting your finances. As an individual, you must be aware of your own financial decisions, but as a married couple, you must also be mindful of the financial decisions your spouse makes as well. In a marriage, a spouse can be the greatest asset or the greatest barrier to financial freedom.
We all grow up with different values and experiences. These differences determine the level of importance we place on debt, savings, investments, and other financial topics. Aligning these values, or trying to convince someone to change long-held beliefs can be very difficult. It often becomes more frustrating when the person you are trying to convince is a spouse or a loved one. It is commonly said that opposites attract. As a financial counselor, I often work with couples where one person is a saver, and the other is a spender. These different mindsets can cause feelings of resentment, betrayal, stress, guilt, and frustration. It is essential to have strong communications skills to address and eliminate these feelings. As a counselor, my goal is to assist couples in fighting the problem together instead of battling each other.
Tips for effectively communicating about finances:
- Focus on the problem. Do not change the topic just because the discussion is not going your way.
- Do not assume you know your spouse’s thoughts or intentions. Ask for clarification and do not make accusations.
- Own your actions. If you made a poor choice, then admit it, learn from it, make a plan to improve, and then follow through. If you fail again, then analyze why you failed and adjust your plan as needed.
- Look at the big picture to find common ground. What are your long-term goals? How will your daily choices affect the success of these goals? What is the timeline you want to buy a house, be debt free, go on a vacation? When you start looking towards the future, it becomes easier to put a step by step plan together.
- As a suggestion, not a rule, allow each other to have fun money. We all want a little part of life that we can control without question. As long as it is legal and moral, do not criticize your spouse’s fun money purchases. One spouse may like to buy a coffee every day. However, the other spouse may prefer to save to buy a kayak, purse, gun, 4-wheeler, or jewelry.
- Keep your finances transparent. Whether you have a joint account or separate accounts, it is vital that you both know your entire financial situation. When are the bills due? How much debt do you have? How much money do you make? What is your credit score?
- Solve financial problems as a team. In marriage there is no longer an “I” but instead a “we.” If your partner is drowning in debt, then you are both drowning in debt. I understand that some spouses do not want assistance from the other spouse; however, working as a team will benefit both of you. The interest paid on credit card debt is generally more than the interest made on investments. Increasing credit scores leads to lower interest rates.
- Work with a personal financial counselor. A financial counselor can act as a mediator to keep the discussion focused and calm.
Guest Contributor: April Meza, AFC®