We learn a lot about money from our parents. I grew up always feeling financially secure. I felt like we had money and it shaped who I am. I appreciate how hard my parents worked and that they supported me financially for a very long time. They paid for college, graduate school and my wedding along with a ton of other things. I am forever appreciative to them for taking such good care of me and for being so generous and giving to me. That’s how they are by nature. Our parents shape us. My father has always been more comfortable spending money than my mother is. It is very rare that a married couple agrees on all money matters. One tends to be more of the spender, and one tends to be more of the saver.
Seth grew up in a very financially conservative family. Both of his parents were careful with money, and they raised him to be that way too. His parents were very generous paying for an expensive college for Seth. I know there was a lot of stress around this understandably due to the enormous price tag to go to Syracuse University. Seth is very financially conservative and cautious. I have found myself pushing him for the last 18 years to spend money on significant things like a house, car, hot tub or vacation. I’m going to throw us both under the bus in this blog to help all of us learn something.
All the stress around paying for college was the inspiration behind Seth becoming a financial planner. He helps parents find money for college. The man has learned so much about college over the years to help so many families. You can find Seth at Howtofindmoneyforcollege.com. I love what he is doing by easing families money stresses. He doesn’t just help families with college, but this is one of his passions. Stress in life tends to fuel our passions.
Seth is also a spreadsheet master. He loves an organized financial spreadsheet. They make me twitch. I am not a spreadsheet person at all. I love to be organized in my own ways. I have not been financially organized at all in many years. Back in the day before children I was paying all the bills. I got very frustrated with Seth’s multiple accounts and asking him to move money. We have all our money to pay bills in one joint account. You have to do what works for you. I realize that some couples prefer to keep their money separated. My parents raised me to share money. My money is your money and vice versa. Despite having our joint account, Seth has work accounts for accounting purposes. One day in frustration I did throw the checkbook at him and quit. I quit a lot of things that day and I apologize deeply to my husband. I quit our finances that day and put it all on him. That isn’t fair.
I listened to a couple on a podcast talking about money. They brought up the word respect and it all made sense to me. I respect and love my husband so much and I realize that I have done a terrible job being his financial partner. I’m a great parent partner. I’m a great wife. I’m a great giver. I’m not a great financial partner. I’m motivated and determined to do a better job.
As I mentioned, it is rare that couples agree completely about money. One tends to be more of the saver, and one tends to be more of the spender. Polarization in couples tends to happen. The more conservative Seth gets with money, the more I find myself going in the other direction. The more he says no to our children, the more I find myself going in the other direction. The more masculine he acts the more feminine I act. We tend to polarize each other. This is something for us to be aware of and work together on. I love when we meet in the middle, and we tend to be a good influence on each other.
I was finding myself frustrated with pushing Seth to spend money. I realized I had really important questions: Can we afford the vacation I want to plan next? Can we afford to put the pool in? Scary and embarrassing to me that I can honestly not tell you the answers to those questions. My educated guess is yes and yes to both questions.
I turned to my husband last night and asked him those questions. I told him I feel financially stupid which he says he would love to fix with me. Every single person should know their finances. Should yes. Doesn’t mean we do. Seth says the answer is yes to both questions. Yes, we can afford it AND is it smart to spend that money was his second answer.
My husband being a financial planner means that I have left most everything up to him financially. He is the expert. He may be the expert AND I need to know our finances AND I need to have a say. I pushed this husband of mine to spend the money on the dog that we adore. I pushed him to buy our hot tub that we love. He calls them doodads. Doodads are enjoyed and not needed. He is very big on what is needed and what is a luxury.
Seth has planned everything out. He has it planned out to be able to pay for one Bar Mitzvah (done), two Bat Mitzvahs (down to one), college for three children and weddings. He has everything budgeted for and planned out. College is probably one of his biggest priorities and he wants to be able to afford for our children to go to any college that they want to. There are a lot of bonuses to being married to Seth. He has so many strengths and I am deeply in love with him. I can also get frustrated with him (and him with me). There are challenges to being married to a financial planner too!
Seth has brought up the word budget many times. It feels like a dog collar when he says that word. He told me last night that he just keeps up with my spending and the tears welled up in my eyes. How is that fair to him? It isn’t fair that he just keeps up with me and it isn’t fair that I have to push him to spend money. We both have to move to the middle a little bit. In my defense, almost all my spending has to do with taking care of our children. I also know that a budget is the responsible way to be living.
I really do feel busy most days. In the busy of my day, I have not been writing down what I spend every day despite my husband asking me to do this many times. It’s something I have taken off my mental load and given to Seth. Out of enormous respect to Seth and our family, I am determined to change this. I am going to try hard to write down what I spend every day. I want to look, and I want to analyze. I love to analyze people. This is my field. If I love to analyze, then I can generalize this skill to our finances. Let us bring my skills to our finances and let me start seeing my trends in spending. I started thinking about how my friend switched from shopping at Wegmans to Walmart and how that is saving her family a lot of money. That is just one example of how to change things up. I can’t change anything if I don’t analyze what I am doing right and what I’m doing wrong. I think if we add up what I spend on coffee outside of the house we may want to change that. I started buying iced coffee at the store this summer to consciously make it at home, so I do try in my little ways.
As we discuss my getting a new car, I bring up to Seth that I am driving a Chevy Traverse. This is definitely a new expensive car, but it is not fancy. I mention the jeep that I want to test drive next and I see Seth cringe by the price tag. Will he say yes – probably. Is it smart – probably not. Do we want to spend our money on expensive doodads? That is the question at hand. I think the answer is balance. I think we need to enjoy our money and I think we need to be cautious and responsible. I tend to do more enjoying and Seth tends to be more responsible. He allows me enjoyment as I couldn’t do it without him.
What is our money dance and where do we go from here. Seth says something responsible about money. I get annoyed. He feels bad. He then gives in and says yes. This is not a good pattern. It causes fights and it makes us both feel badly. It also isn’t responsible of me. Seth should not feel alone in the finances. He has a smart capable wife who could be a partner in this. He also knows that he tends to be conservative and could loosen up a little.
Fixing the money dance:
- Have regular scheduled money meetings. Go over finances together and discuss. My vote is at the end of each month.
- Evaluate together what’s going well and what could be worked on.
- Identify my role in the problem. Take ownership and accountability. What can I do to make it better? Avoid pointing fingers and blaming and focus on what I can do. What am I doing well? What could I work on? This goes for Seth too. When both partners focus on what they can do to change things it goes much better than the blame game.
- Have an understanding of our family backgrounds. Understand where you come from and how that effects your relationship with money. An understanding is always helpful.
- Express your frustrations with good communication skills. “I feel sad when you think the car is too much money. I want to see us enjoy our money.” This doesn’t mean that I am right. It means that I am expressing myself using I language. How do I feel? What do I want?
- Have an understanding of what is a need and what is a want. I need to buy Tanner a new harness because his is too stretched out. I don’t need the new purse. An agreement about how much to spend on wants is a good way to tackle this.
- Learn to compromise. Get a Jeep instead of a Landrover. Get an above ground pool instead of an inground pool. Have three children instead of four. Go on a five day vacation instead of a ten day vacation. These are just examples.
- Be aware of your patterns (the dance). When I see Seth start to back up and give in, I need to be aware of this. I need to stop the pattern and help us change the dance. Seth also needs to be aware of his conservative nature. He consciously tries to loosen up and say yes more. We both have work to do.
- I can generalize my analyzation skills to money. I have to use my powers for good!
- Remember that we are a team to work together on this.
Certain times tend to bring up this issue. Time for a new car. Time to plan a vacation. It is time to change our money dance together and work together. Even though Seth is a financial expert, we need to be a team that works together in every area of our life. We both also have our roles. Seth has more of a financial role in our family. I appreciate him taking something off my mental load and I also don’t want to hand it all to him alone. I want to help. I want to know more. I’ll report back to you after we work on this. I hope we can inspire you to work on this too if it’s an issue in your marriage. Money is one of the biggest marital issues. If we can work on it, so can you. Ready set go! Be responsible and also remember to enjoy your money too. You deserve it.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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