Falling in love is often fun and simple, but sooner or later, love turns into a complicated business especially when things become serious. Ma. Salve Duplito, a financial journalist and co-editor of the bestselling book Pwede Na: The Pinoy Guide to Personal Finance, says, “Money matters seem insignificant and too important at the same time, so they don’t talk about it. The silence is money’s first power over couples.”
Break that power by discussing money, Duplito urges. “I’m talking about honestly divulging real weaknesses and not trying to impress each other. Couples should go beyond discussing paycheck sizes.” Here are a few tips to guide you on your money talk with your significant other.
1 Be patient and honest. Duplito encourages couples to find time to talk things out. “Now that you have a stake in each other, all those ‘little’ things you did when you were single will be magnified ten times in your marriage. Over time, will irk your partner even more. That is why expectations must be set and kinks ironed out by both of you in an open-minded discussion.” Honesty is the one thing that will make this work. Be honest enough also to recognize your own personal faults.
2 Understand that it takes time to change attitudes. Money issues are not really about money. “It is about attitude towards money,” Duplito stresses. “Attitude is built on years and years of personal history. A person’s money personality can have roots in something as hazy as childhood events, or a teenage trauma. When you understand and accept this, you’ll know what to listen to when you sit down with your partner to talk things out.”
3 Put people first, money second. Duplito cites Suze Orman’s book, The Road to Wealth. “People’s attitudes and fears about money give it power—power to weaken the most important relationships in their lives. You may be freaking out because you discovered that your spouse is irresponsible with money. That often makes you forget how responsible he is with the children, or how he doesn’t fail to remember your anniversary,” reminds Duplito. “So keep a good perspective. You can break the power of money over your relationship by putting people first.”
4 Know what you want in the end. This makes it easier to be more responsible in the beginning. Reverend Jose Umali, Jr., an ordained pastor of the United Methodist Church who also provides marriage counseling, and his wife Digna, encourages couples to remind themselves that love should be the priority. “Establish the rule at home that money is only secondary. Don’t allow money to get in the way of your relationship [by talking about expectations.”
5 Make a full disclosure of your earnings. Avoid keeping any money or hidden wealth a secret. Part of a happy marriage is the trust you put in each other. Duplito points out, “The secret of being close is to be open. Realize that earning money is good, but earning respect is better.”
6 Talk to a financial planner. He can spell out to you how much it will cost to have a baby, prepare for his education, buy a car and get a mortgage, prepare for illnesses, and take care of aging parents. Irresponsible attitudes towards money are often cured once there is deep understanding of the financial demands of marriage and raising a family. Don’t forget that you both want a secure and happy retirement.
7 Have a financial safety net. Arguments are heated when things don’t go well. Being prepared with at least three months of your salary (if you are employed) or at least six months (if you are an entrepreneur) stashed away in a bank account, for example, takes off the heat when there are sudden emergencies. It also gives you a goal you can work for, and an excuse to monitor each other’s spending without being judgmental.”
8 Allocate—and stick—to a budget. Prepare a family budget after a thorough discussion of expected income and expenses. “If there are grown-up children, involve them in the budget preparation,” suggests Umali. “You may follow this allocation: 70 percent for expenses, 20 percent for savings.” Any deviation should be agreed upon first, especially when large purchases are at stake.
9 Decide who keeps the purse. Umali recommends that whoever is better at financial management should go for it. “Any bank accounts you keep must be a joint account with and/or signatures,” he adds.
10 Talk objectively about finances. Conversations about money should be edifying and affirming, rather than “auditing” and faultfinding. “If you don’t clear up your money issues now, it will be an obstacle in your relationship in the future,” warns Duplito. “That’s a tragedy because money can be a source of real happiness too—especially when couples put people first; money only second.”
This article was originally published in the January-February 2008 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines and adapted online on Femalenetwork.com.
*Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.