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Marital Finances

Are you Financial Friends or Foes?

Google top ten reasons for divorce, and every time you’ll find issues related to finance. Go deeper and you’ll discover that most marital conflicts stem not from lack of money itself, but typically from lack of communication about financial concerns. The primary bread-winner may see business entertainment as necessary for career advancement, while the spouse interprets it as excessive. One may consider hobbies or clothing as investments in bettering oneself, while the other deems them indulgent. Financial viewpoints such as these differ considerably from person to person based on background, age, and experience. The different perspectives aren’t necessarily serious . Unless they create a marital divide.

For stability within your marriage, concentrate on building foundations of financial strength rather than walls of defense. First, pledge to set aside at least thirty minutes every other week to discuss the topic of your family’s money management. This exercise doesn’t have to be painful. It can take place during a walk, over a cup of coffee, or by turning off the TV earlier than normal. Recognize the importance of open dialogue, and develop the fundamental understanding that you can agree to disagree. Set a goal to meet in the middle from the start, pledging flexibility and compromise whenever possible. Just as importantly, agree to enter discussion with a relaxed and open attitude, versus one that’s revved up and frustrated. After all, if you’ve not been communicating about finances, it’s a victory just to start the discussion.

So what’s on the agenda? Just begin the practice of holding one another’s heart instead of expressing frustrations from your head. Sometimes talking, and an equal amount of listening, can encourage closeness and pave the way to financial reconciliation. Discuss things that your partner does well in terms of money and finances, and then follow up with any concerns that you might have for your family. Notice that the overall focus is the family. Blaming or reminding someone of his or her spending indiscretions will only cause tension and tempers to flare. No one wins by trying to prove a point, so instead of using the pronouns you and I, try we and us. It’s amazing how these simple steps can give discussions a completely different tone.

Next, each of you should create a written list of things that are financially important to you. Candidly share the lists with one another, and then select one item from each other’s list that you will work toward as a team. Make sure you communicate an action step and timeline for each of you so you share not only the burden, but also the success.

Commitment to regular sessions is vital, because just as your financial differences didn’t develop overnight, they probably won’t be solved right away. Commit to six sessions and then take inventory of what is different and what has improved. Stay focused on the whys, and the hows will follow. And always take time to consider your financial blessings. As your attitude about your marital finances improves, your attitude about each other may improve, too.

Remember: Your money is not more important than your relationship. Money is a resource in your marriage, not the basis for it. Try this plan, and see how it works. My hope is that you’ll be blessed not only financially, but in ways you never expected.

Angie Z. Shay has worked in the financial services industry for more than 22 years. She is president of THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC. Angie Shay is a financial adviser with Eagle Strategies LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser and an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company. THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC is not owned or operated by Eagle Strategies or its affiliates. Neither THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC or Angie Z. Shay provide tax or legal advice.
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