We all know the old saying, “money is the root of all evil.” Having an inquisitive nature, I traced the adage back to its origins in the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy in the New Testament (1 Timothy 6:10, KJV), where Paul counsels the younger apostle Timothy that “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Scholars believe this was written in the 2nd Century, but I suspect that how to spend money has been the biggest argument couples have had since the beginning of time.
And not surprisingly, out of five things that psychologists say couples fight about, money tops the list. And they argue about it again and again, say Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. (For the curious, next up are sex, work, parenting and housework, in that order).
But there are simple ways to solve this dilemma.
This evocative adage got me thinking about when I began thinking about money—and not surprisingly, my answer is from the beginning of my time, or at least the time when I was able to understand the concept of currency (and that was pretty early on!). So did my husband. And I bet so did you and your partner.
My husband grew up in a family that had to make ends meet. He knew firsthand what it was like not to have money.
On the other side of the coin, my family was prosperous—though you wouldn’t think so if you knew my mother. When it came to my wants, she was very strict; trying to teach me the value of money was one of her missions in life. But she was so strict that her lesson backfired. After all, don’t we always want what we can’t have?
Now, decades later and thanks to two marriages, I am an expert on the first two initial monetary problems in marriage:
The first: Your husband is a saver. You are a spender. He looks at every bill. You try and hide them!
The second: Partners have different goals and enjoy spending their own money on different pleasures.
Before I expound on other monetary problems, I’d like you to think about your partner’s upbringing because that will give you more insight on how he feels. This will help you when you have your Ying-and-Yang discussions and give you more understanding and compassion about why your spouse feels the way he does. This is just a start.
Sitting at my laptop watching a blazing sun spread its rays, I think about the pressing financial dilemmas of retirement that couples over 50 face. How do we solve them? The intensity of retirement is daunting: no more paycheck. Money arguments are no laughing matter. And retirement should be our time to enjoy togetherness, especially now that we have so much of it!
Some frequently asked questions and answers:
How do we handle issue number one, where one spouse is a spender and one a saver? This is the most common source of financial tension. And we must learn how to listen and give-and-take.
For example, this dichotomy between spending styles may spur very different reactions to some of the most common issues we face as mature couples. Such as:
- Should we give our adult children, who are not in a crisis, money? I speak from personal experience. Note that I am not a psychologist. But I say no, while my husband says yes. My feeling is that I give my children gifts of knowledge to store in their minds so they can make their own way. I do not believe in entitling my children. It is crippling. I think that a parent that entitles their children does so for psychological reasons. They may have a sense of discomfort that their child will be angry with them, or that they are disappointing them. And unrealistically, they think it will make their children love them more. But you can’t buy love. A parent should override his or her discomfort and focus on the more important objective: helping their child become financially responsible. You want your child to have self-respect. Remember: Your child will not stop loving you. And you will have another benefit: The enjoyment of spending your money on one another.
- How do we handle different priorities about spending money on a big expense? You want to update your home. He wants to go on a luxurious vacation. What can you do? You should try and delve deeper into each other’s requests. There are always psychological reasons. He is probably saying: I worked so hard. I deserve a luxurious vacation. She may be thinking: I had so little when I was a child. The children are gone. I want my home to represent me. The key: Discussion will lead to compromise and a deeper understanding of one another.
- How can I manage disagreements over money in our blended family? From the start, there can be problems. You have different ideas about how you want to treat your children and you each have different levels of personal income. They often collide and are ripe for conflict. There should be open discussion over possible estate sharing. If you want to share your estates visit a respected estate-planning attorney and bring your financial worth and your emotional feelings to the table. If you have separate estates, allow each other to read each other’s estates. Together, consider using the same attorney. In your daily life, I think each parent should spend their money on their children as they see fit and decide on gifts you want to share together. There will be a meeting of the minds if there is trust between you and your spouse. Often this situation is less about money and more about emotional issues.
In truth, just as the famous song says, Money Makes the World Go Round. Your life depends on your ability to manage your income, your expenses and your savings together in harmony. It’s not easy, but I think if you tune into the psychological and emotional needs of your spouse, arguments can be avoided… and most significantly, solutions can be found.
After all, if countries can reach trade agreements, spouses should be able to trade back and forth in a peaceful manner to achieve agreement, too. With a generous helping of love, kindness and patience, money matters can be settled so that you can enjoy the most valuable possession you have together – your health, not your wealth.
How do you and your partner handle money matters?
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