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Couples and Money: Check Your Baggage


 

"There's your perspective. There's my perspective. Then there's the truth."


-Ted Klontz

 

It's 2010 at a coffee shop in uptown Minneapolis. I was late for this date with my future wife; I'm not used to finding parking in uptown. She doesn't count that against me, but I get minus 10 points. We drink coffee and talk before taking a long walk. We start dating and it's fun learning about each other; what we like and dislike, what our hopes and dreams are, and what kinds of wine we like.


Over the course of the next few months, she learns that money was tight for me growing up. Even when it wasn't as tight, I had to work hard for it. There are times when I don't have a car to get me to my job so I have to walk. There are times when we simply don't have money for essentials. This is normal for me. 


Over the course of the next few months, I learn that she never thought about money. There was never a time when she had to wonder where a meal would come from or whether or not she would get something she needed. She didn't work and never had to wonder how she would pay for a car. 


If we imagine for a minute that access to money is kind of like access to clean water, then she grew up in a situation where she just had to go to the tap. Just hit a button and water comes out. I grew up closer to the desert, where we would look and look for water; water was hard to find.


Interesting things happen when you bring together people who think very differently about how to get clean water.


different view about money

We All Have Our Own Money Journey


Financial Psychology Institute co-founder Ted Klontz has a saying that we are all a little weird when it comes to money. We are a product of where we come from and we can't change that. Through our childhood all the way to today we've been learning how money works. No matter how right or wrong those lessons are we pick them up. This is how we write our money scripts. As a result we all bring our own money scripts to the table when we enter a relationship. Behavior Gap founder Carl Richards will say this is the baggage we bring to the table.


It's quite common for two people to have vastly different views of money and money's purpose in life. This is an important point to understand when money comes up in a relationship. We've all been in a different journey.


money journeys

Finding Common Ground


If we're lucky we have a little bit in common. It's not surprising to hear that couples have almost nothing in common when it comes to money. One wants to drive cars until they die while the other wants to lease new vehicles. One wants to retire early and spend time with grand kids while the other wants to maintain their status in the neighborhood. One wants to go bring a tent while traveling and go camping while the other wants to stay in five-star resorts. 


Just because there isn't much overlap does not mean there's no hope. It just means that there will have to be more money conversations, and healthier money conversations going forward. Getting a game plan for how to tackle money decisions is important. 


no overlapping views about money

What If We're on the Same Page?


Some people are lucky and share many common views of money. To be clear, I am suggesting that even if a couple isn't in a great financial spot, if they have similar view about money they are still lucky. It makes things easier to be on the same page with your partner. Hopefully that page is in a good book so you can utilize your shared views and craft a good plan going forward.