Money causes more fights between couples than children and sex. I have found that most of these money fights stem from a lack of communication and understanding of a partner’s actions and priorities. Good news! You can build a bridge across the chasm of money mysteries and woes.
Here are five keys to understanding Men and Money:
1. Acknowledge a man’s primal need to be the provider. Being a bread winner tends to be an important part of the male identity. Managing the family finances is a natural extension of this, and across cultures, women value this attribute when looking for a partner.
However, conflict can arise as women bring more to the table. According to CNN, working wives now contribute over 33% to the family’s income, and in a 1/3rd of married households women are the primary breadwinner. As the wife’s contribution to the income grows, so does her involvement in the family finances. However, this does not change the primal need of man to be a provider. My advice… acknowledge this and he will be happy.
2. Get on the same page. Surveys of married couples show that there is a big misperception of what a family truly earns and spends. Both husband and wife tend to overstate how much they make, and wives report owing more debt than they actually do. Your gross income, how much debt you owe and how much you spend are not theoretical numbers. Put these actual numbers to paper and make sure you both know where you stand today.
3. Clarify each of your financial must-haves and set your family’s financial priorities. Women are usually the security seekers and men the risk takers. This can also create conflict. By articulating what is most important to each of you (for example, building an emergency fund or paying off debt) and then agreeing on the financial priorities of your family, you will have a clear understanding of what matters to you most as a family. Most couples actually agree on their priorities but did not realize it before writing it down.
4. Establish your financial roles and responsibility. Men and women still seem to follow the traditional roles of the husband managing the investing and the wife handling the everyday cash flow decisions. However in my experience as a financial planner, more often I have found that one spouse handles almost all of the family’s finances and the other is not actively involved. Regardless of who does what, a couple needs to know what is going on financially. At least monthly, have a 30 minute money meeting where you look at how much you have spent for the month and how you are progressing towards your goals.
5. Give each other credit and be kind. This may seem like a silly thing to say, but too often it is easier to point fingers than to pat your spouse on the back.
The cliché that men are simple resonates with me. My husband needs to eat regularly or he gets grumpy, likes an organized house, and tunes out when there is any kind of drama. When it comes to money, I do the investing and budgeting. About once a month I let him know how much money we have spent, if we need to cut back and how our investments are doing. He usually nods his head and then says “Good job honey.” It’s no ticker-tape parade, but it makes me happy. Money is not a hot topic for us, and I attribute that to following these five keys to understanding men and money written above.