I’d like to start off by saying that I’m very happily married and I love my wife dearly (there is a small chance that she might read this). We have a lot in common, have been through various little challenges over the years and are still very happy together. When it comes to talking about our personal finances however, things still get a little tense at times.
If you have a significant other, then you also probably have a lot in common with them (at least I hope so). When money gets involved, even the strongest of relationships can be tested. Money, or more importantly the lack of it, is a major factor in household unrest with as many as 7 in 10 discussions about your personal finances turning into an argument. I’m sure a lot of people have been in this position at some point. If two people begin pooling their resources, but have different views about how it should be used, there is always a chance of disaster.
Personal Finance as a Team Sport
If you have ever played a team sport, you will know how important it is for everyone to work together in order to optimise their performance as a whole. In a bigger team, it is often easier to get everyone moving in the same direction because you have the power of the group. In smaller teams (like pairs) however, each team member becomes increasingly more important because your resources are limited.
Personally I think that combining your personal finances is one of the hardest team sports going around. It is so tricky, they should make it an Olympic event and give medals to those who master it. Sure most practiced couples can agree on a lot of the big things, like paying bills, buying a house and saving for a holiday, but it is the little things that tend to bring them undone. Unconscious or indiscriminate spending, different views on investment options, or varied delayed gratification thresholds can all cause a small team to stop working effectively on their personal finances. Having a good relationship and the ability to communicate well goes a long way to resolving these kinds of problems, but ultimately a final decision and direction should be decided as a team.
Team Sport Tactics
I’m sure there are plenty of happy couples in the world that handle their personal finances separately, which is fine if that is your preferred option, but I like the team approach. Unless you are playing ice hockey (which for the life of me I can’t work out), most sports have rules. Your personal finances are no different, but the rules are probably a little more subtle:
Rule number 1: Support your team mate. No matter what kind of insane idea your partner comes up with, make sure they feel they can share this with you and that you give it thought, no matter what your initial reaction is.
Rule number 2: Know your opponent. This is not something you should do alone, your team should know what it up against and what it will take to win. Whether it be debt, investing or saving for a holiday, knowing this helps keep your team on track and focused on the end result.
Rule number 3: Play to your strengths. Every team has their strengths and so does each team member. Find out what these are and use them to your advantage. If you are a spreadsheeting ninja, but hate shopping, be the ninja. If your partner is bad with numbers, but an expert bargain hunter, let them be the expert. Trying to be every part of the team yourself will not be as powerful as combining the individual strengths, so make sure you utilise the resources you have.
Rule number 4: Look for an advantage. This is not cheating, but could be related to the rule bending family. Really it is about getting creative and finding ways to have more, pay less and get your team out in front. There are lots of great ways to leverage your financial position, identify a key area that plays to your strengths and make the most of it. Often this is as simple as finding the best loan / insurance / credit card and leveraging their benefits.
Rule number 5: Play to win. Your personal finances should never be a ‘win at all costs’ game, because then it wouldn’t be any fun. What you might like to think about is what you value and what you need to do to get there. Winning is about reaching the position that makes your team happy and wanting to celebrate like you just won the world series.
Your team personal finances can be tough if you don’t work together, but they can also be a lot of fun when you get it right. Try employing some of these team tactics, I’m sure they will increase your effectiveness and your level of success.
Image by University of Denver