Financial misalignment can be a source of immense stress and discord within the family. Often it is much more than just finances. It comes down to one’s values, background, upbringing and past experiences that shape current reality, experiences and relationship with money. As such, more often than not, when two unique individuals come together as a couple and as a basis for a family unit, it is critical that attempts are made early on the understand, appreciate and manage potential differences that could alleviate marital and family discord. We explore a few key considerations that would support you have these discussions.

Be transparent, open and honest:

Discussing finances may be a taboo in some parts of the world. However, talking openly about finances, goals, aspirations, and challenges removes some of the taboo around the topic and is the first step towards having shared alignment in financial goals and lifestyle choices and life outcomes. This transparency increases trust, supports healthy conflict management and leads to shared decision making, for the overall good of everyone involved. Being transparent also involves having joint access to financial resources, paperwork, titles, deeds and relevant legal and statutory documentation supporting ease of access in the case of emergencies.

Discuss financial goals and outcomes:

Goals in general need to be SMART- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. In regards to financial matters, this involves setting pragmatic, achievable financial targets that can be tangibly measured and outcomes measured within a specific timeframe. With two unique individuals, goals can be different. However, differences in goals does not always have to be a reason for concern or conflict. The key is to be candid in having these discussions, share not only one’s goals but ideally the process of achieving these goals, being aware about potential risks or obstacles to goals and having an appreciation of outcomes of these goals will go a long way in setting a strong foundation for alignment and shared goals.

Acknowledge unique short term and long-term goals, desires, opportunity costs:

Key to achieving financial alignment is safe sharing, candid respect, acknowledgement and where practical support for each other’s short term and long-term goals. This includes plans for potential study, travel, investment in the short term and their potential impact on long term goals and outcomes including retirement, supporting children’s education, caregiving, health and more. Be clear about them, discuss the trade off’s and/or opportunity costs of such decisions and short and long-term consequences of all potential courses.

Make room for contingencies

Lennon may have said “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. The only certainty in life is change. Change for the better is wonderful, however setbacks are inevitable. A key upside to financial discipline as a family is the provision of a security blanket for times of adversities. In working through family finances, it is imperative that one considers the best case, the worst case and the realistic outcomes. While we hope for the best, we are prepared for the worst.

Celebrate wins:

Just as crucial to making room for contingencies, it is important to celebrate the wins. Financial discipline takes commitment, sacrifices, delayed gratification and requires self-control. However it is important that we celebrate the wins- small and big. You worked at it and stuck at it as a couple, a unit, a partnership, a united front. Celebrate your achievements and alignment.

Educate your children on the importance of financial security:

If you are a household with children, remember, it is never too early to educate and in turn empower your children towards developing an attitude of financial responsibility. Offer them “remuneration for effort” (note that this should be distinct from any jobs or roles from being a member of the family), instil values of saving, spending and tithing (or donating to someone in need) and teach them to delay gratification- such as presents and toys for Christmas or Birthdays. Having honest discussions with children gives them a greater appreciation of money, setting financial goals and making decisions in alignment with their values and goals.

We hope this helps you and your family have some robust discussions around the topic of finances. We trust some of these life skills including discipline, commitment, resilience and accountability extend to matters beyond finance, which benefit your family and generations to come. If you and your partner wish to have a safe discussion in a safe space in the presence of a professional therapist, our team at AMindset have extensive experience in supporting couples navigate discussions on this topic. We would be happy to be of support and guidance.

Lisel Varley & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

Please refer to the AM articles page for Elise and the AM Team articles.

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.