Jerevie Canlas, Ph.D., CFLE
Empowering Financial Wellness Program Coordinator
Wait! Don’t go checking your bank account just yet. I’m not asking you to check your monthly statements - that’s not what I mean by “money history.” What I’m trying to get at is your history with money - your formative experiences regarding finances. We’re not necessarily talking about whether you grew up rich or poor, but the meanings you created and associated with money.
Recently, I finished reading a book by John and Julie Gottman entitled “Eight Dates.” The book has 8 chapters, each chapter focusing on a topic couples need to have important conversations about. Chapter 4 of the book addresses the topic of Work and Money, particularly emphasizing that each partner comes into a relationship with their own money history - a money legacy - a symbolic meaning of what money is that is passed down from generation to generation.
It was such an eye opening read because it thoroughly explained why most couples argue about finances, and why these kinds of arguments very often lead to divorce. It even talks about why we should avoid characterizing ourselves and our partners as either spender or saver. While it's a very common dichotomy, the Gottmans suggest that it is not a wise practice because it tends to polarize you and your spouse. The “saver” sees him/herself as practical while vilifying the “spender” as impulsive, wasteful, or self-indulgent. The “spender,” on the other hand considers him/herself as generous and considerate in making sure that the family lives in comfort and fun while regarding the “saver” as stingy, cheap, cynical, and someone who doesn’t know how to have fun. Here comes the problem - every time there’s a disagreement about how money should be spent, a battle of who’s right or wrong ensues. In reality, we all have a “spender” and “saver” in us at different times, and our money personality is a reflection of our personal money history - and these histories affect our present lives.
So, do you know your money personality? How about your partner’s? Do you understand how you developed your money habits and attitudes? If you don’t yet, the PowerPay Money Master Online Course can help you discover that. The course has 7 modules, and even before taking you through budgeting, saving, debt management, and credit; the first module takes you through an exploration of your money habitudes. You’d be surprised to find that you’re neither a spender or a saver, but probably somewhere through the continuum depending on what choices you need to make.
Once you discover your and your partner’s money personality, take one step further and dig deeper into why your money habitude is the way it is. The Gottmans list a couple of questions in their book, as you honestly reflect on your own and your partner’s money history:
As you individually reflect on these questions, and as your partner vulnerably reveals his/her money history with you, take turns listening and validating each other. Emotionally and mentally prepare for this essential conversation. Take time, and remind yourself to pause and return to the conversation at another time if it gets overwhelming. This “date” is not the time to pass judgement on your partner’s money habits and attitudes, but an opportunity to get to know each other better. In the end, whatever your individual money histories are, make sure to make a commitment to respect each other’s values around money and work together toward a shared financial goal.
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