You want to save for a family vacation next summer. Your significant other (sig-ot) wants to pay off the credit card bill from the previous vacation. Who is right? Who is less right? And how do you come to a decision together without someone sleeping in the guest bedroom? (Not that I’ve ever slept in the guest bedroom. The light is so pretty coming through the curtains in the morning in that room. I always enjoy it.)
Most people think that they are right. Otherwise you wouldn’t think what you are thinking. You generally don’t set out thinking about something knowing you are wrong. And even when you do, you justify your wrong thoughts so that they appear outwardly right. Example? If you have ever said “I work hard, so I deserve it”, then you most likely are trying to cover up a bad idea with weak justification. If there wasn’t a question on whether or not you could afford something, then you wouldn’t have to break out the “deserve it” justification. This is hard enough to deal with as an individual. Now, add your sig-ot into the equation, and you have two people, two brains, two sets of thoughts, two ideas of affordability, and two sets of justifications that affect affordability.
The only way to address this cluster- waiting to happen is to have joint financial goals. Without goals, you are wandering around aimlessly in a financial world that is poised to kick your arse. Please understand that the operative word in the phrase “joint financial goals” is joint. Individual financial goals are great and all, but they aren’t really going to help your relationship that much. You need JOINT financial goals. DO NOT IGNORE THIS ADVICE. If you have ever said “we aren’t on the same page financially”, then joint financial goals will at least put you in the same book. Beyond that, holding each other accountable to your joint goals will complete the trick.
So, the advice: sit down with your sig-ot and create financial goals that you both agree on. Believe it or not, this is also where you need to practice the art of compromise. It’s likely that one person is more financially focused. If this is the case, then allow the not-as-focused person to speak their mind. I believe it was Sir Elton John who once said “don’t dampen the flame of a flickering candle in the wind.” Okay, I made that up. But my point is that the person “struggling” needs to do most of the sharing, not the person that “knows what they are talking about.” Constant hammering away by the person in-the-know is counterproductive. You’d be surprised how much progress you can make when the “not great with money” person gets to talk.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.