Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 31, 2005
Balance your financial priorities
Couples must understand each other's attitude towards money
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
If too much emphasis is placed on having ready cash for hasty purchases, a relationship can succumb to financial stress. Alternatively, a relationship can be listless and drift idly when the focus on spending money is left to the future.
Somewhere in between is an area where couples can flourish and enjoy a mutually desirable lifestyle, says Dan Newell.
"Financial problems can occur when one partner is interested in the future and security issues when the other wants more present activities," said Newell, a psychologist with Gary Meiers and Associates, who specializes in marriage and family counselling. He was also a pastoral counsellor for 10 years.
"One person might wish to sacrifice the present for long-term RRSPs or educational funds, when the partner wants a vacation, a fancy meal once in awhile or nicer clothes for the kids. They are significant value issues that require a balance where you don't totally live in the present or the future."
The key to finding and maintaining that balance comes from continued and thorough communication, Newell says.
"Money is a big issue for couples. It is a way in which values, power sharing and planning for the future get clustered. Money can be focused upon in an adversarial way," he said.
A couple might have differing opinions of finances based on how their parents valued money. Whether a person was an only child or came from a large family could effect spending methods.
Newell suggests the partners discuss their expectations of finances because people in a relationship and the roles they play, change over time - particularly if they become parents.
"As a basic theme, understanding each other is the first and most important thing to do where you try to be understood and try to understand your partner. Sometimes couples get into situations where they have been living together, seeing themselves as partners sharing not only finances, but other responsibilities. Things are equivalent." he said.
"As they move into marriage and then parenting where their roles are more differentiated, it isn't as easy to be as equal. They have to work out fair trades because the roles have shifted."
As a family grows, spending directions alter. Children have a way of opening up a whole new world for cash to flow. Objectives must adapt to a new reality.
Financial planner Dan Roy agrees with Newell that a couple should know each other's value of money when entering a serious relationship.
"It's important for a couple to realize what their expectations are coming in. They have to understand where each other is coming from. Unfortunately, we live in a very consumer driven society and each person can have a different view of money."
Roy, who helps the Edmonton Archdiocese with its marriage preparation course, says there can be a problem with money if there are different levels in the partnership. He has experienced couples who want to discuss their finances, yet a spouse does not want the other to know his assets and investments.
Newell says a problem exists when the bread winner of the relationship assumes an upper hand and dictates how the money should be spent. "They must continue to update each other on how they are. If they do not, it's easy to get off-line with each other."
Money might provide temporary happiness, but a balanced life buys peace of mind, Roy said.
"Financial planning is about goal setting; about what is important and about quality of life," Roy said. "It isn't just about how high you can make the money pile. And everyone has similar problems with lack of time and money. The reality is they are two commodities that are hard to come by."
Whether a couple decides that one or both will work if they become parents is partially a matter of lifestyle preference, Newell says. "Most couples do try to co-parent, but someone has to work and earn money," he said.
Newell believes a satisfactory relationship can exist with one or both parents working. There are benefits - and drawbacks - to both situations. "When one parent stays home, it can be better for them, but it can suffer when the person puts a career, or other aspirations, on hold. It might be fulfilling to a point, but it might not be completing. I have also seen couples where both are working and they have adequate child care.
"Whatever choices they make, it is a give and take where they accept pressure in one way to relieve pressure in another. It comes back to the way in which the couple discusses the problems and resolves the issues."
"It (money) is a way in which values, power sharing and planning for the future get clustered."
- Dan Newell
Who goes out to work?
Roy says having one or both parents work is a decision based on the couple's values. "I am personally of the opinion that someone should be home with the children to direct traffic, telling them where they need to go," he said.
Even if they differ in their opinions, a complete discussion helps bring partners in a relationship toward the middle so they can benefit from both points of view, Newell said.
"Many issues, including finances, are resolved by this. Problem solving, if required, is the second step, not the first. When people move into problem solving as the first step, they tend to get into competing points of view," he said.
"If a couple begins with understanding and works hard at being in that role, the partners can't help but portray respect for each other."
Newell says everyone agrees with the principle but practising it is difficult.
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