5 Types of Money Marriages

5 Types of Money Marriages

On Weekend Mornings, Glenn van Zutphen speaks with Andrea Kennedy, Certified Financial Planner to find out 5 types of money marriages she has identified over the years.

Glenn van Zutphen: What does money marriage mean to you?

Andrea Kennedy: When you're dealing with your spouse [or significant other] around money, there are 4 questions I always ask people to ask of themselves and their partner:

(1) Are you on the same team?

(2) Are you money literate?
Do you understand your own thoughts about what you think money can do from an investment point of view?

(3) Are you using data or emotions to make your argument?
For instance, a lot of emotions go into buying a home more than data, which is why a lot of people overspend on a home. But at the end of the day, money is about the math.

(4) Do you understand your own narrative about money and your spouse's narrative about money?
Do you understand the story you tell yourself about money and what it can do for you or what investing is about? A lot of us grew up with ideas around money which are actually not ideas based on our own experience, but are what our parents have told us or what we think we know.

GVZ: What do you mean by narrative?

AK: Taking myself as an example, I grew up as a saver because I had two parents who lived through the depression, so I grew up believing money is a source of security - you had to earn money and save it. It was a way of feeling safe. And for some people, money may be how they show their importance to others.

So, everyone has got their narrative about what money does for them. We also have narratives around working with people in finance. Some people trusts their financial advisor entirely while others don't, or some people believe they should only invest in real estate. There are all kinds of narratives around money and I think people have to be sure of why they believe in their own narrative.

GVZ: I don't think that people look at money in the way that you present it to us.

AK: A lot of people look at look at their relationship and their marriage with money and ask ‘Are we doing okay financially? Are we successful? Are we as successful as our neighbours? That is the wrong way to go about looking at things. I’ve worked with people who are just starting out and people who are very wealthy, and a lot these wealthy people are very unhappy and it is because of how they communicate and how they are living around money in their household.

It is not about how much money you have but about how at peace and contented you are.

Here are the 5 types of money marriages I’ve identified over time:

(1) Money Confused
This is best exemplified by a client who came to me and told me that her parents didn't know anything about money. They were great parents, they just had jobs and were investing but weren't really sure about it and they’ve also never done a financial plan. So, she's basically starting from scratch and that's a great place to start.

So, if you're money confused, read books or hire someone to help you get a financial plan done. Work with people who have your best interest at heart.

No one should feel ashamed about not knowing [how to go about financial planning]. I think the shame is when you pretend to know but you really don’t, and that creates problems within relationships.

(2) Money Covert
This is where one person knows what's going on and is making decisions around money while the other person is being left out, intentionally or not. Often, there are no discussions around money so there is a level of secrecy. This is an unhealthy pattern to have in a marriage and is usually the number 1 reason women ended up getting divorced.

(3) Money Confrontational
This is when couples are constantly fighting over money. There could be a lot of things that the couple is fighting about that are not related to money but money could be the “safest place” they can find to have an argument. The better way to handle it other than arguing is to sit down and do the budgeting. And if you're constantly fighting, call in a referee who can listen to both parties and be unbiased to help them bridge to a compromise.

(4) Money Confident
These people who are on the same team and they know that they're working through their plan. If something comes up unexpectedly like Covid-19, they sit down, talk about things and often compromise and make sacrifices together. They are also collaborative around money.

(5) Money Courageous
These are people who have done well enough and are now giving back to their communities, whether through time or money, and this is better than just being wealthy and not doing anything with it.

GVZ: The first place to start is to have a conversation with your significant other but that is also the [most] difficult part. So, how should one go about doing it?

AK: The first conversation you should have would be with yourself. You have to self-reflect around your own relationship with money, what you think money is going to and not going give you and assess if you have gotten the correct idea about money. Once you understand yourself, it's easier to work with your partner. So, when you have money issues, one person will have to take the lead and the other person has to eventually catch up and be willing to follow, otherwise this will end up not working overtime.

GVZ: What are the steps that one, or a couple, can take to reorient or rethink what their strategy might be?

AK: If couples feel like they're at the crossroad and they are having a hard time with communication, they should start by [seeking help] with either a therapist or a financial planner. As I’ve mentioned, one person has to take the lead and they need the other to be on their team. They need to be working to together. Sometimes through this process, people realised that they aren't actually on the same team and that they do want very different things.

GVZ: How do you resolve that if people have different goals?

AK: I think sitting down and going through a complete financial plan will be the best way because then you can see [how much] money is available. Maybe you could tackle one person's goal this year and the other person’s goal next year. Both parties must feel that [the plan] is fair, otherwise if someone is always going to feel that there is an imbalance, it will still not work in the long run.

GVZ: Do you also try to find commonalities between the couple, for example, both parties want to retire or have a certain type of lifestyle? That's something most people can agree on, isn't it?

AK: A lot people think they want to have [a certain] kind of lifestyle but you won't really know until you're in it. The good thing about finding a common goal is that at least you can focus on that together. But, it has to be a common goal. This is important because often, what feels like a common goal ends up being the breadwinner’s goal and the other party is just going along as he or she doesn't feel like they're empowered in the relationship. So, a very good therapist or planner will help that person feel more empowered and with the language to assert themselves in their own relationship.

GVZ: How are the dynamics changed as we see gender divide balancing out and more professional women bring home either the main or a very respectable salary in relationships?

AK: I think that some of the healthiest money marriages I've seen is where there is a balance between who's bringing in the money because immediately she is empowered in her own life in a specific way around money. The reason why women are often left behind is not because they are not capable, but because they've not been spoken to about money as they grow up. So, as someone who is earning money, she will already be involved in her own financial life to some degree. This tend to be the more balanced kind of couples than those with one party earning and the other just going along with it.

Listen to the full podcast to find out if certain types of money marriages are more prevalent than the others:

Download the podcast.

For more, tune in to Weekend Mornings with Glenn van Zutphen on weekends from 9AM to 12NOON.
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This interview was broadcasted on MONEY FM 89.3 on 4 October 2020.

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