Imagine almost never having a money-related argument with your S.O.. Sounds too good to be true, right? But here’s the good news: it’s not nearly as impossible as it sounds.
We often joke that the majority of what we do at Stash is therapy – and it’s not far from the truth. Whether we are working with individuals or couples, we do more than just teach people what to do to be smarter with their money – we teach them why.
Because if you don’t understand the why, you probably won’t stick to the strategy and will likely end up being your own worst enemy. It’s one thing if you stand in the way of your own success, but it’s quite another if you stand in the way of someone else’s. And that’s often the path couples are on when they come to us – even though they don’t know it.
That said, it’s almost never their fault. Here’s why:
Studies show that our attitudes and habits around money are formed in our early years, and mostly inherited from our parents. Given that you and your S.O. grow up in different households, it’s reasonable to assume that you may not start out on the same page when it comes to your finances. But considering that financial differences are often cited as a reason for divorce, we think that working towards getting on the same page with your money is a good #couplegoal.
Around 40% of Stash clients are couples – life partners, newlyweds and even newly engaged. And we see it all – couples with only individual or only joint accounts, disparate income levels, vastly different student loans balances, and more often than not, contradictory money archetypes (the saver, the spender, etc.) – opposites attract, right?
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Read on for a few ideas that will undoubtedly help you and your S.O. get on the same page with your money.
Bear in mind, as with all financial advice, it’s never one size fits all so it’s important to take into consideration what stage your relationship is in among other things. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing you bring up on a first date. But by the time you guys are discussing a future together…it’s probably worth talking about. So let’s get down to it.
1. Think Of Yourselves As A Team
I’ll let you in on a little secret – you work as a team. It’s really that simple. If you’ve decided to merge your futures together – why not your finances?
It’s often surprising to us that we have a much easier time visualizing ourselves as a team in other areas of life besides money. We plan to raise children as a team and face difficult life events including losing parents as a team, but the fact is: when it comes to our money, working as a duo is not inherently instinctual. Rather than splitting hairs over who earns more and how to divvy up household expenses, start thinking of yourselves as a team.
Sometimes we come across couples who have been married for years but maintain individual checking accounts and still Venmo each other for rent. There’s a better way:
The easiest method to execute this is to have your paychecks direct deposit into a joint checking account, we call it your money hub. It’s true, this can feel very uncomfortable at first and may even require a transition period, but shifting your mindset from “I” to “we” will help you get on track for your goals faster and more efficiently.
With this in mind, assets and liabilities belong to the household rather than to the individual. Instead of viewing it as “his/her student debt”, how about “our student debt”? At first glance, you might think this sounds incredibly unfair, especially if the loan decision pre-dates you. But what’s your end goal? Strange that combining assets and liabilities can feel so uncomfortable, yet most of us argue that pre-nups are terribly unromantic. Standing against the latter but for the former just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
2. Have The Goals Conversation
The first step in becoming a team is to talk about your goals. Most long-term relationships start because two people decide that they have a similar idea for what they want their future to be like. And oftentimes, when couples fall apart, it’s because they decide they don’t share a similar vision for the future.
The goals conversation is a major part of the Stash Plan® process because without a destination in mind, it’s hard to know if you’re headed in the right direction. Also, we don’t believe in saving for the sake of saving. Giving purpose to your savings (a.k.a. saving up for that trip to Portugal next year) can be a major motivator to stick with the program.
The majority of financial disagreements stem from seemingly inconsequential day-to-day spending decisions that tap into one person’s fear that those decisions are jeopardizing larger financial goals. If we discuss our goals first, it’s easier to hold each other accountable and more importantly, point to what’s at stake if we’re off course. So dream together and start thinking of your short, mid and long-term financial goals. But don’t just think about them, write them down and back into what you need to do today to be on track. We believe this is a vital step for any successful relationship – business or personal.
A very important part of this exercise is to prioritize your goals. How important is a goal to you? How important is it to your partner? A massive disconnect regarding priority level may signal that further discussion is required or else disappointment and mismanaged expectations will likely ensue.
3. Automate Your Success
The majority of the time, one person is leading the charge with household finances. Oftentimes we call this person the CFO (chief financial officer). They make sure the bills get paid on time and usually end up being “the nagger”. The other person, the naggee, is usually passive by choice or lack of interest or time. Either way, we’ve seen this system cause problems because as adults, we rarely like being told what to do – especially by our S.O. For that reason, among others, we are big fans of automation.
It’s the 21st century, you can and should automate your financial life. Most of us tend to procrastinate doing the things that are good for us and saving money is no exception. Left to our own devices, we usually procrastinate our savings goals until it’s too late (hello credit card!). But once you and your S.O. are thinking like a team and have decided on some goals, automation is your best friend. It ensures you are making progress without any need for the nagger to interfere ?
Wondering how to automate your finances IRL? Here an example:
You’re planning to take a trip to Mexico in eight months. You anticipate needing $2,000 to cover all expenses. Step one, open a joint online savings account (CapitalOne 360 and Ally are two of our favorites), nickname it “Mexico” and set up an automatic transfer of $250/mo so that you are working towards your goal without even breaking a sweat. This system works for pretty much anything from saving for a wedding/honeymoon to planning for a baby to stashing away for retirement.