by Jay Handy, CEO of Walnut Capital Management and SignalPoint Asset Management
It’s complex enough for one person to figure out how to manage their money (and where!). When you decide to commit yourself to a long-term relationship or marriage, the complexity doubles and things get interesting.
It’s been fascinating to watch over the 30 years as I’ve counseled couples on their life goals, financial stresses, hopes, dreams, layoffs, educational accounts, vacation, and first and last homes.
No matter how long a couple has been together, their original “familial DNA” will bubble up. Everyone is brought up with a different relationship to money, and those patterns stick.
Some people’s history is best described as: “Well, we never had any money, but gosh, it was always talked about. How much everything cost, what we would do if we could, and so on.”
And others might say: “We always had enough for anything we wanted, but we never spoke of money.”
From my vantage point, it is almost a therapy session to then get two well-meaning people together on the same financial page to manage a life together, including possibly raising children. Each comes to the table with a deeply seeded feeling on finances, a topic that is one of the top three causes for divorce. (For many reasons, such as when one person’s spending grows out of control and causes anxiety and tension in the relationship.)
I say therapy, because like all relationship issues, it comes down to communication and honesty. There can be some real resentment, grown over time and deeply buried, which only emerges, and sometimes in an ugly way, when challenged.
It is a lot easier to move through the inevitable rough spots in life if both people have a better sense of where the other is coming from. I tell people that having the money conversation is the first investment to make in one another in order to really start out as a united front. It will pay great dividends in the future.
CNBC put together a helpful list of topics to talk through that can help you get started, which you can read here.