Money values

Bruce Sellery says it’s important to understand how your partner values money.

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Question

What are the most important areas to talk about when it comes to love and money?

Answer

When you first start dating, focus on your hobbies and a heavily airbrushed photo in your online dating profile. Better that than talking about your values when it comes to money. It probably won’t be topic No. 1 on your first date—or tenth for that matter—but at some point in your relationship it is a good idea to talk about money values. Sure, your values are reflected in your behavior over time, but to save yourself and your partner a lot of heartache, an explicit conversation about what is important to you can make a really big difference.

Values are the third topic I recommend you address as you work on financial intimacy. After discussing the context for money you have based on your past, and your dreams for your future, I recommend that you talk about your values in the present.

Talking about what is important to you

Every individual has different values when it comes to the area of money. Unidentified, those differences can put a huge strain on a relationship, so it is helpful to talk them through. Make the time to discuss this question with your partner: When it comes to the area of money, what is important to you?

Here are some real answers I have collected from people I have worked with in my Moolala workshops over the years.

Security: “I need to have $10K in the bank at all times or I feel very, very nervous.”
Freedom
: “I don’t want to feel tied down. I want to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.”
Adventure: “Money is a tool to be used carefully to give me a lifetime of adventure.”
Openness: “I recently found out that my husband was having his credit card bills sent to work so I wouldn’t see them. I was infuriated.”
Resourcefulness: “I had to put myself through university and I expect that our kids will do the same.”
Generosity: “I want to spread our money around to those who need it.”
Value: “I’m happy to spend money on quality. But it makes me nuts to waste it on things I don’t really want.”
Beauty: “I want to be surrounded by beautiful places and beautiful things.”
Efficiency: “I don’t like managing the family finances, but it is really important to me that we use our money efficiently.”
Time: “I value my time over money. Let’s outsource what we can so I can spend my time on what I want to do.”
Living in the now: “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I want to enjoy my money now and live life to the fullest.”

Mine, yours and ours

Using the examples above, brainstorm your own list of values. Then choose your top three and have your partner do the same. Talk through your lists and highlight the similarities and differences. As you go through this exercise you may find some values that conflict. Security and beauty, for example, might be hard to reconcile. Brainstorm some ideas on how you can live according to both those values, by finding ways to compromise.

The main thing is to focus on the values that are shared and be aware of the ones that aren’t.

Address the myths

There are a number “values myths” that can cause relationship conflict. For example:

  • My values are “right” and my partner’s are “wrong”: one person values beauty and likes to buy nice art. The other values security and wants to focus on retirement savings. Neither of those values is right or wrong. They are just different.
  • All our values must be shared: that is definitely a myth. Sure, it is good to have some values that overlap, but you don’t have to share them all. In fact, it can be a problem if you are 100% aligned on values that get you into trouble.
  • Values can’t change: not true. Values can change over time. But nagging doesn’t help. Education helps. Exposure to new things. Rewards can help. Many couples have increased their shared values by first communicating them, and then investing the energy to work on them.

Now that we have talked about context, dreams and values we can move on to the most practical part of building financial intimacy: duties. It is not the sexiest of topics, but it is one of the most useful. Stay tuned.

ask@moneysense.ca

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