Isn’t it frustrating when you and the one you love so much can’t decide on something simple like a TV show to watch or a restaurant to go enjoy a meal together? Nothing is worse than when you ask, “Where do you want to go to dinner tonight?” and get “I don’t care” as the response. UGHHHHH!! I just want an opinion for goodness sake!! I’m not looking for a decision….just an opinion for us to work from. This would never happen in our house though; I only just imagine how frustrating that could be. 🙂 I wonder how often that question ends up in a significant domestic argument? Feel free to comment if you find any stats on that.
If you’re not in a relationship, continue reading because you’ll learn a few things you can take into your next relationship.
A simple decision like where to eat or what to watch can be frustrating even when it has no real impact on your long-term future. Imagine how frustrating a decision on how to handle finances can be. This topic can be very touchy, especially in a household that may have financial difficulties. Roughly 90% of the people I talk to regarding finances eventually mention how they and their partner are not on the same page financially. There are multiple layers of issues at play here, so let’s talk about a few of those issues.
SET UP FOR FAILURE
Only 43% of couples talk money before marriage (Business-Insider). I’ll admit, Jessie and I never had this talk. I had no idea what her credit score was….or what mine was now that I think about it. Geez. Embarrassing. I didn’t know if she had consumer debt, but I did know she had student loans: no idea of how much though.
Communication is the second leading cause of divorce right behind finances. So, imagine what happens if you don’t communicate about finances. Jessie and I were very lucky to squeak by while making both of these HUGE mistakes. Honestly, if it weren’t for what happened here, I’m not sure where we’d be. No communication equals no progress. You can’t get on the same page without first discussing what book you’re reading.
These two things alone can doom a relationship; add to that the constant onslaught of marketing campaigns, the Joneses next door consuming like their happiness depends on it (which it doesn’t), and social media making everyone look rich and happy. These are overwhelming hurdles to conquer before even starting down the path of getting your finances together. The Joneses are broke and miserable. Trust me. They built that ridiculously over-sized house right next to you, and have these lavish parties with all of their friends and you think, “Geez, they have it all. Maybe we just need a bigger house!”
Ask them to stop making payments for 6 months. I dare you. You’ll find out real quickly who owns that house……
IT’S THE LENDER!!!!
Set Up for Success
I’m not going to pretend to be a relationship expert, or that these solutions will solve the financial problems of every relationship. Truth is, there isn’t a “one size fits all” fix. Since we’d all agree that since there isn’t a blanket fix, eliminating the top 2 contributors of divorce will give any relationship a much greater chance of success. I’m going to let you in on what worked and didn’t work in our experience.
So you want to get on the same page with finances, right?
Here’s my best advice:
- LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
Anything in life that requires the teamwork of 2 or more people needs to have a strong leader. Let’s talk briefly about my definition of a great leader. No, it isn’t someone who sits behind a desk barking orders at their employees. It’s not the “do as I say, not as I do” leaders. It’s the boss that’s on the front lines leading by example. They are the “do as I do” leaders. They get out there and make sh*t happen, and it encourages the people they lead to follow without an order to do so.
The same goes for household finances. Reality is that both partners won’t wake up on the same day with this revelation of wanting to get their finances in order. Usually it takes one person to start changing ever so slightly, one day at a time. If you improved in an area by just 1% a day, you would have improved by 365% in 1 year. Surely a 1% change isn’t too hard. When the second person starts to see this change and how much it positively impacts their partner, they’ll start to get curious. I promise. Jessie and I didn’t start on the same page. While neither of us were huge spenders, we didn’t have a growth mindset in the financial aspect of life. Once I started to educate myself and get excited about the doors that open once you’re debt free, Jessie got excited too and jumped on board. Jim Rohn said , “We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.” I find this very true. Your partner is probably in the top 2 of those 5. Be the best damn you that you can be because someone is counting on you to drive up the average. Especially your spouse. If you both are consuming all day, it’s going to be very hard to stop that cycle. Although, if one of you pumps the brakes, it turns that 100% consumerism into 50%. Don’t wait for your spouse!! Be the person that makes the change, and let the other person catch up to the new average you have just set.
Would Jessie have been as excited if I were running around barking orders about don’t spend this and why did you buy that? Absolutely NO! She probably would’ve resisted the change just out of spite. She doesn’t like to be told what to do. AT ALL. That’s natural human instinct. Now, I don’t look at myself as some great leader, but when the person you love is abundantly excited about something, you’ll take interest because it’s important to them and that’s what you do for loved ones. Once your partner starts to take interest, it’s only a matter of time before they see the light. Cutting consumerism, living below your means, and eliminating consumer debt isn’t something that’s a smart choice for a select few people. It’s the smart choice for EVERYONE!! So be a leader long enough to get your partner interested. Once that happens, join forces and compound your efforts!! LEAD BY EXAMPLE!! Whether that means saving your money and paying down a little of your debt while your spouse spends all of their allowance on electronics and clothes, or banking up cash for your own little emergency fund. I promise it won’t take long before you start to exude financial peace of mind, and your partner WILL take notice and start to follow.
- COMMUNICATION! COMMUNICATION! COMMUNICATION!
Communication plays into leading by example, the only problem is that it’s much trickier. Have you ever told your spouse something 50 times over, only for it to go in one ear and out the other… but their best friend comes up one day and says the same thing and they have this magical light bulb moment like they just heard the greatest thing ever? Meanwhile, you’re over there like…..
This happens because it’s easier to hear something from a friend than it is the person you love most, so you have to be good at touch-and-go communication. I was ATROCIOUS at this!! I was so excited that I beat Jessie’s ear every chance I got with long-winded financial sermons. I certainly could bore the paint off of the walls. Let me tell you, this isn’t leading by example or good communication. I’m glad Jessie has a brain capable of independent thought because I could’ve blown it for us getting on the right track. Find the most impactful pieces of information that excite you about getting on course financially and present it in bite-size fashion. A huge part of this is timing! When they roll over in the morning and hit the snooze button probably isn’t the optimal time to mention that you just saved 15% on your car insurance by switching to Geico. There will be plenty of time for this once they’re fully committed and have had their coffee… I definitely recommend waiting until they’ve had their coffee.
- LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
When the right moment comes along, talk to your spouse about what they want for your future together. So often we just go through the motions of going to college, getting a 9-5 job, and grinding it out until we are 65, hoping to be healthy enough to enjoy 15 years of retirement. That sounds terrible to me, and it might to your partner as well, but it’s just never been thought about; let alone talked about. They might not even know there’s other ways of living. Start by finding out the “WHY.” Why are you working so hard? What are we passionate about? What if we had more time to follow that passion? What if we could work for 10 years instead for 35 before retiring?
Jessie and I still walk the beach in the evenings talking about these topics. Our passions drive us to make sure we keep our finances in check. We aren’t working until we’re 65! We refuse!
You have to find a why and motivation. I’ll tell you one of my motivations I keep fresh in my mind. One Friday night around 11:30 pm, I had to run to Walmart. I parked and an elderly lady parked next to me, so I waited for her to get out of her car first. As she turned to get her walker and head in, I noticed she had her Walmart vest on. She was at least 75 years old, heading into work at 11:30pm! No joke, I sat in my car and cried a little thinking about Jessie having to do that when she was 75 because we didn’t make good financial choices at 30. If that doesn’t motivate a spouse, I don’t know what will.
So I leave you with this: Are you willing to let your spouse work midnight shifts at minimum wage because you didn’t care enough to be a leader and have a conversation? I’m not.