The second step is to recognize what type of money person your partner is, so you’ll know who you are dealing with. If you are an Avoider and your partner is a Saver, you probably will have noticed a savings account that is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So you say, “Honey, what is your problem? We have plenty of savings! Why do we need so much?” And she says, “I don’t care. We need more.” Your next thought may be something like, “This conversation is hopeless. Her response will always be the same.”
But if you recognize and legitimize her needs, then the situation will be far more manageable, and your relationship just might improve accordingly.
The Saver needs to recognize that the Avoider is never going to eagerly sit down and balance the checkbook. The Avoider is never going to take a look at how much is being spent here versus there without prompting. He is not going to be very reliable in terms of paying the monthly bills. The Saver should recognize the Avoider’s value in doing other things in their relationship, and discard the expectation that he will ever be a whiz in financial management. Recognition and acceptance of each other will remove entire layers of conflict over money.
Some combinations are more troublesome than others. Take, for instance, an Avoider and a Worrier. The Avoider is going to avoid and the Worrier will worry about everything no matter what, and probably nothing productive will get done. This is a couple that needs help. They need a bookkeeper or an accountant or a financial planner to help handle their money affairs. Two Avoiders may also need the help of someone—otherwise big trouble may lie ahead.
I was talking recently to an executive from the East Coast, an Avoider. She said, “I never balance my checkbook and never will. At the office people give me balance sheets and I say, ‘What the heck are these? What is this stuff? What’s the bottom line?’ I tell my accountant to pay my bills. He tells me I don’t have enough money to pay the bills. I tell him to find it!”
“What would you do with somebody like me?” She asked.
“I would tell you to do exactly what you are doing,” I responded. “Let someone else handle it.”
She said, “You mean I never have to balance my checkbook?”
“Never,” I said, “Don’t even touch it.”
“Oh, I like you!” she says.
So don’t try and change yourself either. If you are a Spender, you will remain a Spender. You can, however, get more conscious about it and set up a structure that will give you some measure of control over your spending.
Ray and Jene were a couple who came to me for a financial consultation. He was an attorney and she was a dental hygienist. They made plenty of money as a couple, but they were always fighting over who spent what. He made most of the money and claimed she spent most of it.
After talking to them, it became apparent that Ray and Jene both were Spenders. They both spent money on whatever they wanted.
As a team, these two people were spending more money than they were making. When they recognized their habits and developed a structure together, they agreed to try to stick to it. Within a few months, they had stopped spending more than their income.
It’s not the other person’s fault. The other person is who they are. You might wish for your partner to change over time, to see things your way. But I wouldn’t plan on it.
Recognize how both you and your partner relate to money automatically. Then figure out what kind of structure you might create to support your needs and your partner’s needs at the same time. If she needs to spend every month to feel right in the world, agree on an amount. If you are an Avoider, agree to talk once a month about money. If you are both Worriers, go see a financial advisor and have them help you set up a long-term financial plan.
No matter what type of “money person” you are, you can find a structure that works for both of you and your partner. And when you set up such a structure, blaming your significant other for your financial problems will become a distant memory.