Organising the personal finances of one person is a daunting task. So much learning and unlearning is required to get your mind right. Now try doing that for two people coming from slightly or largely varying experiences and you have a recipe for disaster. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic but joint personal finances are a difficult hurdle to scale. We have here 7 tips for couples to help get personal finances in order.
We may as well start here. One cannot deal with what one doesn’t know. While of course what springs to mind is disclosing issues like pre-existing debt and responsibilities or obligations outside the relationship other issues require honesty. Being open with each other about financial understanding and experiences is key. Our financial literacy or lack thereof is guided by past experiences and like it or not beliefs. Beliefs are not always rational.
Honesty is not easy and it requires open spaces that encourage open and transparent communication without retribution or ridicule. So in addition to opening up, one must allow space for their partner to open up to them. While immediately correcting your partner’s behaviour may appeal to most you may gain more by taking a little advice; seek first to understand, then be understood.
Budgeting isn’t a word that goes down smoothly with everyone because of the aforementioned past experiences and beliefs. However, we need to focus more on the idea of budgeting than the methods employed. For the sake of this discussion let’s think of budgeting as counting your money (both inflows and outflows), nothing more, nothing less. This is something that needs to be a team effort to succeed and must be done realistically.
Naturally, goals are a big part of personal finance. Anyone who has done a little bit of adulting knows that having goals is wonderful but achieving them is another creature altogether. In a couple of goal congruency, the perfect alignment of goals does help but it is not essential. What is important is that firstly each person’s goals are acknowledged and secondly that there is no obvious goal divergence, a clear and obvious conflict between goals.
If you are fortunate enough to have sailed through the first four tips here comes one that may cause major trouble. The tools you will use to achieve your financial goals. By tools, I refer to systems or vehicles that you use to realise objectives. For example, some may want to save money in a bank account, others may prefer the gaba system and others still money market accounts. Same for investing, there are unit trusts, shares, term deposits, property, recently launched ETFs and more. Which tools to use can become a divisive issue. To traverse this an objective understanding of both the tools and the feelings about them will help.
Another area of conflict in couples when it comes to personal finance is the idea of investing. Not the tools or methods but the idea itself. You may find couples with mismatched investment horizons or one partner does not trust the concept. In Zimbabwe, you can understand how many would not after many who invested lost their savings twice in the space of less than a decade. There is a lot of messy ground to traverse to overcome such issues but the answer is always seeking more knowledge. Taking courses and reading books together can help.
Now for the morbid. Life insurance, funeral policies, wills and the like are subjects that people do not like to discuss. It gets worse when you are looking at the finances of a couple. We cannot ignore the estate issues that have and continue to plague couples in Zimbabwe in the event of the untimely passing of a spouse or partner. When looking at these matters it is important to consider the legal status of property or assets and also the legal status of the union. While we always hope for the best in the event of the unexpected it is far wiser to guarantee the outcome through planning.
These tips apply to couples at any stage of the relationship. Ideally, the relationship will progress with the right joint finance foundation.