How To Grow Emotional Control Around Money

Besides sex, money is the most common cause of disagreements in relationships. In my marriage, we have been fortunate to have never argued over money. That’s not to say finances haven’t caused us stress, but it has never caused contention. Why is this? My assumptions is it’s because we were both raised by parents who sincerely value people more than material possessions. They also openly discussed money rather than treated it as some taboo or big secret. As I was thinking about why money hasn’t been a fighting point for me, I thought back to a few key moments in my upbringing.

Both my husband and I grew up with parents who provided for our necessities but didn’t always have a lot of extras. I remember when I was 16 and had my first car accident. A neighborhood boy without a license, stole his brother’s car, drifted around a corner and t-boned my car as I was coming home from school. I lost consciousness as the car drifted into my own driveway. I remember making the call to my parents and they did not once ask me about the car, or make a single comment about the expense. Their only concern was that I was okay. I know they didn’t have a ton of money at the time and I’m sure it was a financial stressor for them. Never once did I ever feel like that car was more important than I was. 

Twice as a teen, I went through 2 major fire evacuations. We had time to grab what we could, but had to leave our home knowing there was a very good chance we would not be coming back to it. Thankfully, our home was barely spared both time. I had several friends whose fate was not so fortunate. They lost everything. One friend literally escaped their home with the clothes on their back while their home burned behind them. These were pivotal experiences for me and helped solidify the teachings that people are always more important than material goods. Everything in life can be replaced, except the person.

I was raised in a faith-based home where many of our weekends were spent offering service to those in need. Cleaning yards and houses, baking meals, and more were just a normal part of life. It helped keep my own privilege in check. When our family had times of great need, many of these people returned the service. 

I credit these experiences with the relationship I have with money. Of course nothing is ever perfect and I still have my own challenges with it. These experiences are what I credit with not allowing money to be a cause of contention with the people I love.

Our Schools Failed Us

Our education system absolutely failed all of us. If I hadn’t been raised by someone in the financial world, I would have started life off quite lost about financial concepts. I’ve often wondered why on earth they taught us about trigonometry but not how to open a bank account, balance a budget, or build credit. So many people were left to figure it out on their own and as a consequence many made mistakes that will take years to recover from. In an ideal world, everyone’s parents would have had the knowledge to pass down to their children, but that is not often the case.

It’s Not Too Late

There is hope! The road won’t always be easy, but it’s not too late to get back on track. In 2017 my dad and I started a local charity with the intention of teaching fundamental life skills to young adults. What working with these amazing people made me realize, is we just need to start, wherever we are. If you’re in debt, start by getting out of it. Make necessary sacrifices and remember that your future self with thank you for it. Set a goal, create a goal path plan, and go for it.

Get Your Emotions Out Of The Way

Sometimes, our emotional roadblocks to money stem from not truly understanding it. Others come from negative experiences with money, or the lack thereof. Here are a few tips to help you reframe your money mindset.

It starts with creating a charitable mindset vs one of greed or scarcity. Follow the 80/10/10 rule. 80% of your budget (or less) to necessities and wants, 10% to savings and 10% to charity. Trust me, I know how hard it is to give away your hard earned money. It’s been a taught practice I’ve used my entire life, and even still, its not always easy to do. When you are able to see the benefit of your donations to a worthwhile cause, it leaves you feeling good inside. Overtime, you will want to tweak the 80/10/10 to save more if possible. A good goal would be 60/30/10 or some other combination that makes sense for your income vs cost of living. In the meantime, start shifting your mindset by budgeting your money and using a portion to better the world around you. You don’t have to give a lot to make a positive difference.

Next is the concept of “set it and forget it”. If you’re at all familiar with the stock market, you likely know the saying, “buy low, sell high”. This concept makes perfect sense but in actuality is very difficult to do. Why? Because of human emotion. An emotional investor is a terrible investor. While not everyone is cut out for the stock market, one way to ensure you don’t get caught up in the emotions of investing is to only invest money you can afford to lose. Unless you have a high tolerance, don’t follow the markets every day. Set your positions into reputable stocks, and let it do its thing. Essentially, set it and forget it. Don’t let the up and down of the market dictate your daily moods.

Let me share an example of this concept with you. We had a client who has since passed away. He worked for the same company for 40 years. He set aside a small amount to his 401K each month and auto invested in the same stock each time. He never looked at his account until it was time to retire and he found he had 1.5 million in there. Now I am not suggesting you don’t check on it ever, or only invest in the same stock forever, but his ability to emotionally detach led to great financial security for himself and his wife. 

Name your fears. We all have a complicated relationship with money. My grandmother was a very young, single mother for several years. She was on her own and she worked incredibly hard for all that she had. She was and still is very generous but money has always been a pain point for her. That insecurity passed on to my father who has had to overcome guilt surrounding affording nice things and the fear of it all going away. I’d like to say that fear entirely passed me by, but it didn’t. Although with each generation that fear has lessened, it is still a hurdle I face when It comes to my own finances. Because I know this about myself, I am able to work through it and not allow this to negatively impact my personal relationships.

Money and Marriage

When you have 2 people with very different money philosophies it can lead to a lot of discord in the relationship. If you aren’t self-aware of your own challenges with money, certain messages can be sent to your partner that you may not intend. One I have seen in various situations is the feeling that money, or the pursuit of it is more important than the partner/family. While that may not be true or intended, our actions send messages. What messages do your actions send? How can you ensure you and your partner don’t fight over money?

First, I recommend having frequent and honest discussions about each person’s money philosophy before you get married. Listen to understand, not to argue. Perhaps your partner’s philosophy has some merit, or perhaps it is entirely off base. If that’s the case, I recommend taking a financial basics course together to start new conversations. Using a third party medium will help give you a roadmap that you can choose to follow all or some of. Being willing to change your philosophies and adopt new practices together will lead to a cohesive family unit.

Second, you should find united financial goals. Perhaps you want a to save for new appliances and your partner wants a brand new car. Put aside your personal wants and see which purchase brings the most benefit to the family unit as a whole. Create savings goals for each desire and a timeline by which you both want to reach them. It doesn’t have to be a point of contention. Just communicate respectfully and make a plan so that both of you feel validated and heard. If you focus on your joint financial goals, you will feel more harmonious.

Third, it’s okay to put boundaries in place if your money habits don’t align. I’ve seen this many times, where one spouse’s spending habits are taking them both to the poor house. While joint accounts can be beneficial in healthy financial relationships, there is nothing wrong with maintaining your own bank accounts. Some couples have one account solely for bill pay, and others for savings, and fun. I am not advocating for secret accounts, rather separating spending money from essential money can help restore harmony.

Wherever you are starting your journey, I hope you can find some peace as you go. If you’re looking for some additional resources, check out other finance related posts like 3 Debt Tendencies and How To Overcome Them.



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