Wright Foundation | July 29, 2015

Are You Encouraging Success or Resenting Finances?

Fact: 40% of couples have separate bank accounts and don’t talk about money with each other at all. But money can be a big deal in relationships — it can be uncomfortable to talk about.

For some families, money symbolizes power, success, or even being loved. Some spouses resent their partner due to lack of money but still remain tight-lipped. So why aren’t couples actually talking about their money?

If financial issues are causing resentment between yourself and your partner, you’re not fully supporting your partner’s success because you’re not fully engaged in the relationship as a whole. To be fully present, it’s important to deal with those money issues to better understand how your household finances are working (or not).

Your objective is to always look at the big picture: we don’t fight over spending when we can first work through the emotional issues causing financial strife. Because money comes loaded with meaning for many couples, the best approach is a practical approach that results in both of you working toward mutual financial goals to encourage mutual success.

Here’s how…

Use Business Sense Before You Budget

Think of your relationship as a business: you have revenue, you incur income, and you have certain variable and fixed expenses (like bills, including your mortgage). After your money is spent every month, you’re left with either a profit or a loss for that timeframe.

Before you start budgeting, create a profit and loss (P&L) statement for your relationship or family. Tracking all of the above will allow you to see where your family’s funds are really going. Don’t jump straight in to creating a budget before you have a handle on your income vs. your expenses. First see what is before thinking about what could be.

Next, create a personal balance sheet to determine your net worth. A balance sheet will detail the amount of money you have in the bank (savings and checking accounts), your long-term assets and their value, and loans and debts both owed and owed to you. The difference between your total assets and your total liabilities determines your net worth.

You can do all of this easily with an online financial tool like QuickBooks or Mint.

Now Move Forward Together

A couple is like a car—one person is the brakes and the other person is the gas. If they aren’t coordinated, the car lurches around and doesn’t go anywhere. Organizing your finances at the big picture level gives you a steering wheel and allows you to see where each person is putting on the pressure. Now you’re prepared to discuss your childhoods and how you were perhaps differently educated about money. You’ll be able to analyze where your differences in financial awareness are causing problems. With all of your finances laid out in front of you, you’ll finally be able to have a realistic and reasonable discussion about each financial line item and how you’re going to meet your financial goals going forward…together.

Financial planners are useful because they help you look at and understand your financial goals while remaining an impartial mediator. Talk to your partner about your goals and fears, in addition to your financial psychology, to promote open communication and encourage success in both of you.

What About When Money Affects Work/Life Balance?

Sometimes when it comes to work/life balance, things can be pretty off kilter. Four straight weeks of overtime may mean a loss of quality time with your spouse and kids, but it could also pay for all your bills with enough left over for a future family trip. It may seem obvious to you that you’re working for your family, but your spouse may feel as if you’re not with your family enough. Something’s got to give, right?

The first law of time management is that work will expand to fill time. Sometimes you may think that all your time is full, but it’s really because you aren’t using your time efficiently. It starts with prioritizing—and your relationship must be at the top of your list. As they say, put big rocks (such as family and work) in your time container first, then fill the rest with sand (meaning the less important in life).

The deeper issue that’s likely coming up here is how well-nourished you are in all aspects of your life—including your health and wellbeing, the health of your relationship, your wellbeing in your career, etc. Are you taking enough time to be in good shape yourself? You may be taking care of your family, but if you aren’t really taking care of YOU then no one will truly benefit.

Encourage Success Within Yourself AND Within Your Relationship…Always

Money may be scary to talk about, but it’s important and it has a real impact on your life and the life of your relationship. Be skeptical of yourself. We often think in excuses and limitations based upon limiting beliefs about ourselves. We need to expect more out of ourselves and what we can do—and that includes maintaining a flourishing family “business.” Open and honest communication with yourself and with your significant other promotes success in all realms without resentment or fears.

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Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user armydre2008.
Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.