What’s harder than talking about sex? Talking about money!

October 28, 2009

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Kathy Radina“We need your help. My wife charged over $50,000 on the credit cards at the casino. How could this happen without me knowing?”
Money is a common cause of stress in relationships and like it or not, we are going to talk about it right now. Because money can be associated with a myriad of personal issues from self-worth and confidence to hidden addictions and childhood trauma it is a highly emotional topic. And lately I am hearing everything from the above, to; “I have no idea how much money we have. He tells me we are fine, but when I ask to see the bank statements he puts me off. I think we have investments, but I have no idea where, or how much.”

So the first step in resolving financial issues is, you guessed it,

1. Talk!
Use the communication models I have outlined in this space before, get up the courage and talk. Not only do you have a right to know about the finances in your marriage, given that we live in a community property state, it is your responsibility. And while you are talking,

2. Define work for money.
Ellie lost her teaching position, and because she loves to garden, her new work plan is to start a landscaping business. Great, but it takes a little planning to turn her hobby into a business, and just for the record, it isn’t a business without a business plan that indicates when money will be made. If Ellie is simply spending her time in the shed potting plants, and perhaps even using money to buy supplies, she is engaged in a hobby, not working. As it happens, her husband Don isn’t interested in supporting Ellie while she pursues a hobby. His plan is built around a partner who makes financial contributions. So they have a problem.

I’d be interested to know what is keeping Ellie from honoring an agreement she previously supported. Maybe it was getting fired, or possibly she never really agreed. Which brings us to,

3. Establish a mutually agreed upon plan.
When Mark and Greta committed to each other, they committed their money as well and set up a mutual account. As it turns out, Greta is careful with the money, and Mark thinks nothing about spending hundreds of dollars on new golf clubs, often putting the account in jeopardy. When she tries to confront Mark about the spending, he gets defensive and puts the problem on her saying that she is too tight, and needs to loosen up a bit. “I work hard for this money, and I should be able to spend it to have a little fun.” True, but taking money out of a mutual account without sharing the information is certainly thoughtless and perhaps even selfish.

There are a number of solutions for Mark and Greta from budgeting to separate accounts, but certainly just throwing money into a mutual account without having a plan for how it will be spent is not working for this couple.

Debra Price of the Money Coaching Institute says “because we’ve linked money with our selfhood as well as our basic survival, it’s not safe to talk about money in most families. We feel vulnerable.” I thought it might help to know that you are not alone.

And to keep it all in perspective, remember this quote from Johnny Carson:
The only thing money gives you is the freedom of not worrying about money.