Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for part two

Money is the topic that is consistently reported to be the number one problem area for couples.  Not jealousy or sex or chores, but money.  So if you and your partner don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to money, you’re not alone.  The sheer number of decisions that revolve around money makes it unlikely that two people will always agree about what to do with the stuff.  So says, Jenkins, Stanley, Bailey and Markman in the book You Paid How Much For That?.

The authors provide this inventory for you to determine how much the issue of money impacts your intimate relationship, and to what degree:  Rate how much of a problem each area currently is in your relationship by writing in a number from 0 (not at all a problem) to a 100 (a severe problem).  For example, if the amount of time spent working is somewhat of a problem, you might enter 25 next to “time spent working,” If time spent working is not a problem in your relationship, you might enter 0.  If time spent working is a severe problem, you might enter 100.  If you wish to add other areas not included in this list, do so.  Be sure to rate all areas.

___ Spending habits

___ Time spent working

___ Retirement planning

___ Differences in long-term money goals

___ Not having or making enough money

___ Saving issues (not enough, different preferences, too much)

___ Money chores (recording checks, balancing check book, paying bills, etc.)

___ Credit card debt

___ Tax matters

___ Housing (rent vs. purchase, housing payments, repairs, remodel, decorating and furnishing, etc.)

___ Fairness of how money responsibilities are divided up

___ Overall debt

___ Money and in-law dynamics

Here are just a few of the areas about which we all have financial questions or expectations, say Jenkins, Stanley, Bailey and Markman:

  • Who balances the checkbook, if anyone?  Which accounts are joint and which are separate?  Who pays which bills?  How much is OK to spend on entertainment?  How much do we save and where?
  • Who gets the last say if you both disagree on a large purchase?  How often do we go over the details of our finances?  (Once a week?  Once a month?  Yearly?  Never?)  How much is too much before we need to agree on spending money?
  • What would be a comfortable financial position for you at this point in life?  How about 10, 20 and 30 years from now?  What does financial security mean to you?  What are your financial goals?
  • What is more important to you, how your children turn out or how your work, career or financial status turns out?   Do you live your life in ways that reflect that sentiment?  Whose career or job is more important?  If there are or will be children, will either partner reduce work time out of the home or take care of them?
  • What takes priority if there is a conflict: the needs of the individual or the needs of the couple?  What does “equality” in your relationship mean to you?  How important are these beliefs?  Who has more financial power in what kinds of decisions are made, and how do you feel about that?
  • What do you want life to be like when you retire?  How do you expect your retirement to be?  What lifestyle do you expect to have?  What do you expect it will take to reach your goals for retirement?

I will continue this discussion in next week’s column.

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