Money and Mates: Compatibility Factor
â€œLove does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.â€ â€“ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Finding a balance between money styles can be harder than negotiating other things in a relationship. After spending two years writing about money, Iâ€™ve found it to be one of the more fascinating dynamics between people.
When youâ€™re dating someone, how do you learn about each otherâ€™s philosophy with regards to personal finances? My partner and I had the money conversation within the first few months of dating. Most people learn these things as time passes but what if you could cut to the chase and ask your prospective mate 20 questions about money.
This topic of compatibility was posed by Lisa Stone in the comments section of the Ten Money Questions interview with Rebecca Walker. She writes:
If you can come to an agreement about spending and debt priorities, you really can live sanely together. If not, trouble is afoot. I used to tell my girlfriends that I would only commit to someone I was willing to go to the grocery store with and for until we were in wheelchairs. I was joking then. But now I think itâ€™s a true test, from product selection to payment! Do you have questions you recommend people suss out before they commit?
If people are looking for a literal list, then click here to read my Money as a Second Language post. The source of the list might surprise you, but the important point is to prompt the money conversation with your lover and potential mate. Hereâ€™s an excerpt:
Do you have a credit card? If so, do you have more than one?
Do you sometimes buy things that you donâ€™t need? If so, give some examples.
Did your parents give you an allowance?
How much? What did you use it for?
Have you ever been in debt?
How important is money to you?
How much did you spend last week?
How much did you spend yesterday?
Where did you spend it? What did you spend it on?
How much do you spend on food each week?
How much money did you make on your first job?
â€¦. And the list goes on.
You get the ideaâ€¦ by listening to the answers; youâ€™ll get a good summary of someoneâ€™s money personality. Olivia Mellan, author of Money Harmony, outlines four money categories. According to her, most people fall into one or more of these:
Spenders are the classic shop-till-you-drop consumers who derive a rush of pleasure from buying.
Hoarders have strict budgets and systematically prioritize everything. Saving for them is orgasmic and spending on entertainment, vacations, and anything but the most necessary items is seen as frivolous.
Avoiders put off dealing with money management because the task overwhelms them. Since they donâ€™t like budgets or keeping records, they frequently forget to pay their bills.
Amassers stockpile their funds in order to feel safe and happy. The bigger the pile, the better they feel.
Awhile back, I interviewed Skye Kilaen for an installment of Ten Money Questions and she gave such a good example of how money played a role in both past and present relationships:
At age 21, I married someone with a very different style of money management. Basically, he did none. All the responsibility was on me to keep him from running up big credit card balances, and that was stressful. I expected him to be the breadwinner and didnâ€™t work as much as I should have, so that was hard on him as well. There were plenty of other problems in that relationship, but constant struggles over money made everything else harder to deal with. A year and a half later, I gave up and left.
Before I married Cody last year, I made sure that we were compatible on money management. I even asked him to log into his bank account online and let me look through it. He agreed and answered all of my questions openly. I have total confidence that he wonâ€™t spend a bunch of money that we donâ€™t have, so I donâ€™t have to be the money cop. We have similar views on when to pay bills, how to make large purchases, and who should make the long-term plans and research investment options (me, â€™cause I like it). As weâ€™re figuring out how this impending parenthood thing will affect our budget, I know weâ€™ll work as a team, and thatâ€™s very reassuring.
Is that the best test or what? â€œHoney, may I login to your bank account and peruse your last three credit card statements?â€ In my opinion, thatâ€™s true intimacy! The songwriter, Claire Cloninger once said, â€œI figure that the degree of difficulty in combining two lives ranks somewhere between rerouting a hurricane and finding a parking place in downtown Manhattan.â€
Katy Read at Ladiesâ€™ Home Journal adds:
According to financial experts, talking about money may be just about as important for couples as saving it, whether the discussions are chats on the way to the grocery store or formal family meetings.
In many marriages, money is not only the biggest area of disagreement, itâ€™s often the undercurrent of ongoing arguments that seem to be about something else entirely, such as housework or children or the color of the new sofa. Some of these spats could be avoided through frequent, honest discussions.
If thereâ€™s one big rule on which experts agree, itâ€™s that both partners must be full participants in the familyâ€™s financial life. Even if one spouse earns all the money or handles all the paperwork, the other needs to know whatâ€™s going on and should have an equal say in major decisions.
The key is to keep each other involved and this requires talking about money. Itâ€™s Relationship 101 and communication applies to all things money. One question that I often ask with financial interviews is if the person and their partner see eye-to-eye on money. Check out the archives for the answers. Itâ€™s fascinating to see that money issues are irrespective of gender and that queer couples arenâ€™t that different from a man and a woman trying to live together in harmony and make sense of their pocketbook and wallet.