Couple’s finances: Being in tune with one another

Written and accurate as at: 15 May 2018

In our article, ‘Recognising and dealing with financial stress’, we discussed that close to a third of Australians find dealing with money stressful. In light of this, one of our suggestions for dealing with financial stress was to talk to your partner. One of the reasons behind this is due to the conflicts and stresses that may arise between couples when there is a difference in their beliefs on money and/or their money personalities, and these differences are not appropriately recognised and addressed.

Importantly, beliefs on money and money personality can be interconnected.


Consequently, we discuss ways to help you with recognising and addressing the differences that may occur in both of these areas through the fostering of communication, mutual understanding and teamwork.


Beliefs on money
The experiences that you have throughout your life (and your interpretation of these experiences) can shape the way that you view the world and your engagement within it on a conscious level. Importantly, the same may be said in terms of the formation and shaping of your beliefs on money.

Briefly, your beliefs on money are protective or liberating ideas, thoughts, or opinions that you hold about money. Depending on your personal circumstances, these beliefs on money may or may not be beneficial or desirable to you as they can influence your financial attitudes and behaviours.

If you are unsure about how to discuss your beliefs on money with your partner or even what your beliefs may be in the first place, consider completing the following together:

Identifying your beliefs on money through language

  • Write several short sentences about money, starting each sentence with ‘I should…’ For example, ‘I should invest more for my retirement’.
  • Repeat above, but now change the start to ‘I believe my partner should…’ For example, ‘I believe my partner should save more’.

Identifying your beliefs on money through feeling

  • Write down how you are feeling right now. For example, joyful, grateful, hopeful, helpless, depressed, jealous, or angry.
  • Repeat above, but now write down
    • The feelings you believe someone who is financially insecure would have.
    • The feelings you believe someone who is financially secure would have.

Once done, read out your answers to one another and discuss how you both feel. Now take some time to engage in ‘perspective shifting’, in this instance, seeing your beliefs on money as ideas, thoughts, or opinions rather than truths. A simple way to do this may be changing ‘should’ to ‘could’ in the first exercise above and discussing how you both feel afterwards. By practising perspective shifting, you may find that you not only allow yourself to gain a better understanding of your partner’s beliefs on money, but also open yourself up to the possibility of replacing your existing beliefs on money with new ones.


Money Personalities
Why do you manage money the way you do? Many of the decisions you make when dealing with money, such as how you earn, spend and invest your money, may be done on a subconscious level. We explore this in our Money Personality learning module.

Briefly, your money personality is the set of preferences you have with regards to dealing with money. Importantly, your money personality, like your beliefs on money, can influence your financial attitudes and behaviours.

When it comes to preferences in dealing with money we are all unique, which is why we developed four money personality animals to help broadly describe the differences that can arise from one person to the next. Here is a brief overview of each money personality animal:

If you are unsure about how to discuss your preferences with your partner or what they may be in the first place, consider the below key metrics for assessing your preferences for dealing with money. With this in mind, now read through the above links for each of the four money personality animals. You may find that you more closely align with one animal when compared to the others. This is most likely your money personality animal.

Gathering information (Tangible vs Intangible)

  • Tangible – what’s experienced through the senses, and focus on past and/or present experience.
  • Intangible – what’s dreamt or imagined in the mind, and focus on patterns, possibilities and future.

Making decisions (Rational vs Emotive)

  • Rational – prefer logic/reason to make decisions, and what makes sense through laws and science.
  • Emotive – prefer empathy/sympathy to make decisions, and what feels right/is aligned to values.

Managing self and environment (Order vs Flexibility)

  • Order – prefer to be planned and structured, and seek closure and completion.
  • Flexibility – prefer flexibility and freedom, and seek new options and tangents.

Importantly, don’t feel too ‘pigeon-holed’ in terms of your money personality animal as you have all of them inside you; however, their levels of dominance will depend on your present preferences for dealing with money – we say present because your preferences, and subsequently your money personality animal, are not necessarily fixed, however they are usually sticky. Furthermore, there is no ideal money personality animal as each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

To get perspective on other animals, you can review ‘Using personality differences to everybody’s benefit’. This will help you to not only engage in perspective shifting (putting yourself in your partner’s shoes), but also show you how different money personality animals can worth together as a team (harnessing strengths and overcoming weaknesses).


Putting it all together
You may now have a greater awareness of your beliefs on money and your money personality, and how differences in these two areas may have given rise to conflict or stress in the past around managing your personal finances as a couple.

To build on this, you could complete one last exercise with each other. For this exercise, we take a leaf out of our Building Your Team learning module and ask you to read and consider the below sections:

Please note: These sections and what they ask you to consider as a couple, can be applied to various areas of your personal finances, for example, cashflow and debt management, investments and superannuation.


Moving forward
When it comes to the management of your personal finances as a couple, it’s important to recognise and address any differences you may have regarding your beliefs on money and your money personality.

Importantly, the exercises that we have asked you to complete aren’t meant to facilitate a ‘blame-game’, rather the focus is on fostering communication, mutual understanding and teamwork. Ultimately, these three things may help you in terms of reducing conflict and stress around money, as well as aid you in getting on the same page with regards to assessing your existing financial situation and working towards achieving your financial goals and objectives.

We hope you found this article useful, and please remember, in terms of the management of your personal finances, we are here to help.