The Money Meets Medicine Podcast

Joint Finances: Navigating Relationships and Money

By Jimmy Turner, MD
Host of Money Meets Medicine

Merging your money as a couple seems simple on the surface, doesn’t it? You love each other; why not love sharing a bank account too? Yet, very couple faces this decision with their unique blend of excitement and trepidation. And let me tell you, those emotions are justified.

The act itself—merging money—is sometimes like trying to mix oil and water without ending up with a mess on your hands. Some folks leap without looking back; others tiptoe around it like it’s hot lava. Then there are those who’d rather jump ship than join accounts.

Why such drama over something as mundane as managing money together? Because beneath the surface lies everything but mundanity: dreams, aspirations, and sometimes even fears and a tough history with money. It’s not just about numbers on a spreadsheet; it’s about what those numbers mean for your future together. Let’s dive into it.

Creating a Shared Financial Vision

Dreaming together about your future? That’s the sweet spot. But let’s get real, aligning on how to make those dreams financially viable? Now that’s where things get interesting. My favorite tool to do this is called the Kinder Questions.

Note: The best way to do this is first go through these questions individually. Then, come together and discuss each of them with your partner, ideally, over a date night meal. You may be surprised what you learn.

Question 1: Design Your Life

I want you to imagine that you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. The question is, how would you live your life? What would you do with the money? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back your dreams. Describe a life that is complete, that is richly yours.

The purpose of the first kinder question is to figure out what matters to you in life.

This has previously been a struggle as I spent an inordinate amount of time on things that didn’t matter much to my “intentional life.” This is what led to creating my Hell Yes Policy where I say “no” anything that does not make me say, “Hell Yes!”

Since that time, I have started saying “no” to anything that I am not extremely passionate about. Why?  Because, in the end, I am much more passionate about things that make me say Hell Yes, like my wife and kids.

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I cannot choose to do everything anymore, and so I chose my family.

Question 2: You have less time 

This time, you visit your doctor who tells you that you have five to ten years left to live. The good part is that you won’t ever feel sick. The bad news is that you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining to live? Will you change your life, and how will you do it?

What if life sped the clock up?  You had a plan to reach financial independence in 12 years, but now you only have 5 to 10 years left on this earth.  How does this change things for you?  That’s all wrapped into kinder question 2.

Waiting to live the “good life” someday often becomes unacceptable when our timeline no longer extends to what “someday” was supposed to be. We can and should live the good life right now.

Take note. This is not an excuse for hedonism. I don’t recommend going out and buying all that stuff you hoped you could have someday.  That’s not what life planning is about.  Hollow spending will not make you happy.

I encourage you to sit down and to figure out what your ideal life looks like now so that you can take steps toward pursuing it today.  All the while, the hope is that you are creating a financial plan that allows you to continue to live it every day from here on out.

Question 3: Today’s the day

This time, your doctor shocks you with the news that you have only one day left to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What dreams will be left unfulfilled? What do I wish I had finished or had been? What do I wish I had done?  [Did I miss anything]?

Are your priorities in line with your life plan? Is your time reflective of what you care about?  What do your financial habits say that you value?  What “bucket list items” have you missed?

Having seen the end of life issues that often arise in medicine, I have spent some time writing about what truly matters to most people in the end. Typically, people do not say that they wish they had earned more money, worked one more shift, or had one more side hustle.

Most often, they wish they had spent more time with family, had more experiences with those that they love, and made sure that those they left behind would be taken care of once they were gone.

If today was your last day, what have you left unfinished?  Of those things, what would bother you the most? Without thinking through these questions, you might find that financial (and life) stress is not far behind.

The Impact of Financial Tension on Relationships

Money talks can be a slippery slope in relationships, especially when the stakes are high, like in the medical profession. Bring an excel spreadsheet to such a discussion, and you’ll likely be spending the evening alone. Exploring the dynamics of financial discord, we’ll uncover methods to navigate and mend the strains it places on our bonds.

Understanding Financial Tension

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Have you ever pondered the reason financial disputes hit us so hard? It’s not just about the numbers. It’s about what they represent – security, dreams, priorities. It also has a lot to do with your past experiences with money. When couples clash over cash, it’s often a proxy war for deeper values and needs going unmet.

A staggering half of American couples experience financial tension, shaking the very foundation of their intimacy. Even more telling is that 7 in 10 have butted heads over finances within just the last year alone.

Strategies to Mitigate Financial Stress

  • Talk About Money Early On: Don’t wait for a crisis to strike before discussing finances. Make it part of your regular conversations.
  • Create A Joint Budget: Even if you don’t combine bank accounts, a joint budget is helpful. This helps set clear expectations and allocate funds towards common goals without stepping on each other’s toes financially.
  • Earmark Funds For Fun: Yes, saving is crucial but so is enjoying life together. Set aside some budget for date nights or small getaways to keep the spark alive.
  • Honesty Is Key: If there are debts or spending habits one partner feels uncomfortable with; laying them bare can prevent future surprises (and arguments).

Essentially, by approaching financial issues collaboratively, you can transform possible disputes into chances for development and mutual comprehension. Remember: combining forces doesn’t mean losing individuality; it means building something greater together.

The Role of Joint Bank Accounts in Marital Finances

Alright, let’s talk about one of the more contentious topics when it comes to marriage and finances. Combining your finances through joint bank accounts can be like sharing a piece of cake – sweet but sometimes messy.

Pros and Cons of Merging Finances

The Good:

  • We’re in this together: A joint account screams partnership. It means you’re both on the same page, aiming for those shared dreams – whether that’s buying a house or saving for a trip to Paris.
  • Keeping it simple: Ever tried juggling? Managing separate accounts can feel just like that, minus the applause. One account keeps things streamlined.
  • Budgeting buddies: When you see every expense laid out clearly (yes, even those late-night Amazon purchases), budgeting becomes less of a chore and more of a team sport.

The Not-so-good:

  • Fight club: Sometimes what seems like an innocent purchase can spark World War III. Different spending habits mean conflicts might pop up more often than unwanted ads.
  • Losing autonomy: Your grandma gives you $100 for your birthday with strict instructions to spend it on something fun? Well, into the joint account it goes… where it pays part of the electricity bill instead.

Key Takeaway: 

Jumping into joint bank accounts means teamwork and transparency but watch out for the potential spats over spending. It’s all about finding balance, with trust and communication guiding you through. Remember, it’s more than just money; it’s building a life together.

Regular Financial Check-ins

As life unfolds, our monetary landscapes transform alongside. Regular check-ins ensure you’re still heading in the same direction—or if it’s time for a detour. Maybe you revisit the Kinder Questions above. Or you go through the monthly budget (not as fun). Either way, it is important to check in regularly.

  • Schedule them like date nights; make these discussions something to look forward to rather than dread.
  • This isn’t just number crunching; share feelings about money—fears, successes, frustrations—to understand each other better.
  • Rewards matter. Hit a goal? Celebrate together—it reinforces teamwork and makes the next target less daunting.

The path toward shared financial success isn’t always smooth but starting with solid groundwork—a unified vision—makes all the difference. And remember, this doesn’t mean losing individuality; think of it more like creating harmony in an orchestra where every instrument adds its unique sound towards one beautiful symphony.

The Importance of Open Communication About Money

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Let’s be real, talking about money can sometimes feel like walking through a minefield in the dark. But here’s some good news: it doesn’t have to be that way. Having open conversations about money matters is essential, not just advantageous, for nurturing a resilient and thriving partnership.

Overcoming the Taboo Around Money Talks

So, why is it so tough to talk cash with our better halves? Well, money talks are often seen as taboo – something you just don’t bring up unless you absolutely have to. This mindset needs a makeover because when we skip these chats, we’re skipping out on building trust and understanding in our relationships.

  • Start small: You don’t need to dive into the deep end right away. Chat about daily spending or how you both view money generally.
  • Schedule it: Make financial discussions a regular thing. Pick a time each month for a “money date” where you check in on your finances together.
  • No judgment zone: Create an environment where both of you feel comfortable sharing without fear of being judged.

Tools for Effective Financial Communication

Gone are the days when pen and paper were your only allies in managing finances together. We live in the digital age baby. There are tons of tools at our fingertips designed to make managing money with your partner easier than ever before.

  1. Mint: A budgeting app that lets couples track their spending habits and set shared goals seamlessly.
  2. You Need A Budget (YNAB): This app focuses on giving every dollar a job, making sure partners align their expenses with their financial objectives.
  3. Tiller Money: If spreadsheets are more your style but still want automation help, Tiller links them directly to your bank accounts.
  4. Zeta: A tool specifically created for couples looking to manage joint bank accounts while maintaining personal ones too.

 

Key Takeaway: 

Chat about money with your partner to build trust and understanding. Start small, make it regular, and keep it judgment-free. Use digital tools like Mint or YNAB for easier management.

Now for a tough topic that we have to discuss if we are chatting about all things marriage (relationships) and money. It’s a bit of a shocker, but 40% of relationships get tangled up in what’s called financial infidelity. This means one partner isn’t exactly being crystal clear about their money moves or debts they’ve racked up.

Red Flags of Financial Infidelity

What are the subtle hints that your partner might be hiding their financial dealings from you? It starts with noticing the little things. Maybe your partner gets jumpy when bank statements arrive. Or perhaps there are expenses that just don’t add up. These could be tell-tale signs that not everything is on the table.

  • Sudden need for privacy: Your other half used to share everything but now hides phone screens and shreds receipts.
  • Mysterious transactions: Unexplained withdrawals or new accounts popping up can signal hidden spending habits or debts.
  • Lack of open conversations about money: If bringing up finances suddenly feels like walking into a minefield, it’s worth digging deeper.

Rebuilding Trust After Financial Infidelity

Finding out your partner has been keeping monetary secrets hurts. However, the silver lining is that trust can be mended and conversations may deepen in richness following this challenging ordeal. Initiating the journey towards mending these scars begins with taking that first crucial step.

  1. Honesty: Kick off with laying all cards on the table—every debt, account, and penny spent needs to come out in the open.
  2. Create a recovery plan: Work together on setting goals that will help fix any damage done financially and rebuild trust gradually over time. You may use some of the tools mentioned above, like crafting a shared budget or planning regular finance date nights where you check-in on your progress towards mutual goals.

Seeking Professional Help for Financial Alignment

In the end, you may not be able to get on the same financial page despite all of the tools mentioned above. Let’s face it, money talks can be tough. But when the going gets rough, knowing when to call in the pros can make all the difference. So let’s dive into how and why getting professional help could be your next best move.

When to Seek Financial Advice

You’re probably feeling confident with a “We can handle it” mindset, aren’t you? Sometimes though, even the savviest couples hit a wall. Here are a few signs that it might be time to seek out some expert advice:

  • Your financial goals feel like they’re worlds apart.
  • Every time the topic of finances comes up, it seems to spark more arguments than agreements.
  • You’re planning big life changes – think buying a house or starting a family.
  • The thought of retirement savings sends you into panic mode.

If any of these sound familiar, reaching out to a financial advisor might just save you loads of stress (and possibly your relationship).

Key Takeaway: 

When money talks turn tough, calling in financial advisors and marriage counselors can bridge gaps, solve disputes, and strengthen your bond. It’s not about admitting defeat; it’s about committing to a healthier future together.

Conclusion

Managing finances together isn’t just about crunching numbers or balancing checkbooks. It’s about dreaming together, facing fears head-on, and crafting a future that’s as rich in love as it is in assets. We’ve seen how financial tension can strain even the strongest bonds but also how transparency, shared goals, and regular heart-to-hearts on money matters can fortify them.

I highly encourage you to use the 3 Kinder Questions to get on the same financial page with your spouse. Schedule regular check-ins. And, above all, make sure your shared financial vision is strengthening your relationship and not working against it.

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