Kerri Cook: Rich In Love And Money – February 10, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Beatles tune tells us that money can’t buy us love. I wonder if Lennon and McCartney ever wrote a song about how money does, however, seem to have the power to push us away from our love at times.

They say that half of us will want out of our long-term relationships mostly due to disagreements about money. And so, as we’re about to celebrate with our special valentines by finding a way to remind that person that we love them, perhaps it’s also just as good of a time to talk about money and ways to further strengthen our primary relationship.

A good first question to ask is “How well do we know each other, financially speaking?” Opening up a dialogue may be difficult, especially if the two of you have not been used to discussing the subject of money in the past. A good way to break the ice is to give yourself and your mate a quiz.

There is a plethora of examples to draw from online just by google-ing “money management skills quiz” or “marriage and money test” if you’d like to take a look. The idea is for each person to complete a questionnaire and then look at each other’s results as a kind of jumping off point to the discussion. Here’s a quick sample to use to open those lines of communication.

I wish we had more money for _______________________. My partner most likely wishes to have more money for _______________________.

The best financial decision we have made together is ______________________. The worst financial decision we have made together is ____________________.

Do my partner and I handle money the same or differently? Is this okay or not?

I want to commit to discussing our finances and will do so by ______________________.

The thing I most appreciate about my partner is _____________________.

That last item is to end your exercise on a positive note, remembering why it is that you love this person in the first place, whether or not you see eye to eye when it comes to money.

The next question to ask yourselves is “When should we sit down together and talk about money?” Scheduling a set time seems strangely formal, but it also shows to your mate that you are committed to the discussion and indeed, the relationship. Make time to talk on a regular basis—how often will depend on what works best for you—but do set up those check-ins with each other periodically to keep yourselves on track.

“How are we going to talk to each other?” is just as important of a question. Come up with some ground rules to your discussions that you can both live with. Setting guidelines will eliminate fights (new or old) that do often arise when discussing money. Try your best to assume responsibility and not place blame. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and when emotions may get heightened, take a break, let some time pass and come back to the issue when you are both calm again.

And lastly, and probably most importantly, ask yourselves, “What are we ever going to talk about?” Start with making some goals for the two of you and your whole family. Brainstorm about everything and anything that you would like to see for yourselves in the future. Look at all of your present issues and financial concerns and then come up with three ways to tackle the issue. Do the same for any monthly items, as well as any worries for the year to come.

Talk about specifics in terms of your spending plan, any changes you may want to make in terms of where your money is going, and the overall organization of your finances. And if you find that you need it, get some outside help from your friendly, local financial coaches to have these discussions.

Taking these first steps will create a deeper bond between you so that you can fully enjoy Valentine’s Day, and every day, together.

Kerri Cook tries to keep the lines of communication open about money with her own valentine of 10 years. She is a financial coach to Cupid’s couples and anyone wanting some confidential guidance on achieving their goals at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the North Coast (CCCS), an accredited non-profit organization in Arcata.