Mrs. Planner and I had our monthly budget meeting last night. We have come a looooooong way in the last six years in regards to how these meetings go. A monthly budget meeting with your significant other may not seem like a great idea, but it is such a vital part of our marriage. It’s our time to take our individual ideas, and convert them into our collective ideas. What did we have to overcome? Our own individual views of money. The craziest thing is that I have adopted her mentality more than she has adopted mine. She has made me more frugal and less materialistic. I am very thankful for this. I honestly believe that by addressing our financial differences, we have strengthened our marriage. Here’s why.
One of the primary reasons that marriage and money can get challenging is the fact that you and your significant other were raised by different parents…hopefully…not that there is anything wrong with marrying your sister…who am I kidding…never mind…how did I get off track already in the first paragraph? Anyway, different parenting styles create different types of people. The sooner that you take the time to acknowledge this and apply it to your relationship, the better. You think the way you think because you are most likely the behavioral product of the people that raised you.
If you have ever sat down in my office for an appointment, then you know that I ask about your parents’ financial situation, especially when you were a child. I usually ask this near the end of the appointment once I’ve made my initial assessment about your financial habits. What am I listening for? Lots of things, including pride, denial, sacrifice, a lack of realism, bankruptcies, divorces, and several other life altering events. Am I playing psychologist? A bit. Does this “digging deeper” help me do my job better? In the mortal words of Sarah P. from Alaska, “You betcha!”
It’s quite common for a person to recognize the less than ideal financial status of a parent, and then try to coach his/herself in the opposite direction. This flight from familial failure is admirable, but it’s one of the biggest mountains that a person can climb. This is because a person’s financial behavior is just an offshoot of their overall behavior. You can try to isolate and unlearn the financial lessons that you learned (or didn’t learn) from your parents, but you can never unlearn 18 years (or so) of parental socialization. Was your dad always trying to game the system? Did your mom take five free samples at the grocery store when the sign said “take one”? It’s crazy, but this matters.
Your financial character becomes especially important when you share a financial household with someone else. And what is even more challenging is that your partner can more easily see your shortcomings. Shortcomings that you never realized that you had. This can either make for a wonderful relationship or a terrible relationship. But understanding that your way, the only way that you know, may not be the best way. But the comforting thing is that your partner’s way is the only way that they know. This means that you can eventually come up with “our way” when you take the time to work on your relationship.
My recommendation is pretty darn simple today. Take a few minutes to think about your childhood. Identify two positive characteristics that you have adopted from your parents. And now identify two negative characteristics that you have adopted from your parents. How do these affect your life today? What can you do to turn the tide? And to make sure that you can get the most out of this activity, forward this post to your significant other too. They should take the time identify the four characteristics that they have acquired too. Good luck. And one last thing, when you have this conversation, be a listener, not a talker.
Here are our the rules of our budget meeting that Mrs. Planner and I use. Use them. They work.
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.