You’ve heard that disagreements over money are a major cause of divorce. So, why don’t more couples work to manage these differences of opinion before it’s too late? I believe it’s because we don’t fully understand our own attitudes about money, leaving little chance that we’ll appreciate our partner’s divergent views.
When it comes to child rearing, housework, dealing with relatives, and money, unless you have a healthy respect for and understanding of your spouse’s perspective, arguments will undoubtedly occur. These can eventually lead to “irreconcilable differences.”
When it comes to money, ask yourself: Are you a saver or a spender? Does money provide you with a sense of security, or is it more about status and impressing others?
Everyone has a “money personality,” and that’s OK. But when your basic philosophies about money — driven by your core values — differ, problems can occur. Coming to terms with your money differences doesn’t have to be a competition resulting in a winner and loser. You can both be right.
A financial mission statement can be a useful tool for understanding each other’s attitudes about money. It’s also a powerful instrument for creating unity of purpose and focusing your attention on your financial goals as a couple. It provides a “guiding star” for making decisions and reflects the couple’s values and concerns.
Moreover, when you have clarity on money, you can live a life of less stress and more peace of mind, because you know exactly what you both are aiming for in life (and with your money). Making financial decisions will be easier, and it’s more likely you will reach your goals.
You can start on your joint financial mission statement today. Begin with an end goal in mind, such as retirement, the education of your children, or philanthropy. Some of the areas that you can address in your mission statement are:
1. Your values and priorities as a couple.
2. People and causes you want to be able to support.
3. How you will make financial decisions together. (For example, “Consult each other before making any major financial decision,” or “Discuss any transaction over $200.”)
4. How you will continue to stay on top of your financial affairs and learn about money.
Getting started is the hardest part. Here are some topics to consider — establish your mutual goals and place a priority on each one:
1. Taking vacations vs. buying a car
2. Saving for your future vs. spending today
3. Paying for college vs. your children paying their own way
4. Your children going to a state college vs. private school
5. When should our children be fiscally independent?
6. Which one of us handles the money? (Try taking turns.)
Take the time to create your joint mission statement now. Post it somewhere you can see it daily, and use it as a roadmap for your financial decisions moving forward.
Janet Acheatel is Founder of the Women’s Practice at Hoyle Cohen and a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.