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All You Need is Love… and Money?

{ 42 comments }

Today’s post is from The Green Swan, who is planning to retire by 40. He is 30 years old so he has plenty of time to achieve financial independence. He is way ahead of me when I was 30 so I’m sure he will achieve his goal. Enjoy!

All You Need is Love…

All You Need is Love..Money is one of the leading reasons why couples fight and divorce.  Cue the Beatles… “All you need is love…”

Well, maybe we need something more than love.  How about a little organization and communication?  How about a little give and take?  Not every “money fight” can be avoided, but let’s try to reduce some of the stress and anxiety.  Should the Beatles reword their song?  Let me see if I can convince you…

“Wait, you are suggesting counseling before we even get married…?”

When my wife and are were engaged, the church assigned us a sponsor couple who we had to meet with a dozen or so times leading up to our wedding.  Sort of like counseling sessions and we covered a number of topics.  Sounds awful, huh?  Well you’re right, I don’t know how I made it through…

But in all seriousness, it is better to have these tough discussions before you tie the knot to avoid money coming between you in the future.

“Wait, nobody said anything about a test…”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, guess what, at the very end of the counseling sessions there was a test.  We each had to fill out a fairly long survey of questions covering a wide range of marriage topics, one being finances.  We completed the surveys individually and compared answers to see if we were on the same page.  The answers we could choose from for all the questions were a rating from 1-3, 3 being the highest comfort level we had that we were on the same page, 1 being the lowest.

Needless to say, we aced the finance section.  Are you surprised to hear that?  Our sponsor couple was shocked.  They had been sponsors for countless other couples over the years and not one time had anyone come close to doing as well as we did.  Personally, I took that as a major badge of honor.  I don’t really recall how we did on the rest of the test, but what does it matter anyway…we have been married 8 years and still going strong!

“Wait, what were we fighting about again…?”

So how did we do so well on the test?  Well, I made it very clear to her upfront about needing to sign a prenuptial agreement…haha j/k…neither of us had any money back then…I mean I would never had done that even if I had money…

Communicate!

We have always been open books on finances with each other.  I am much more into personal finance than she is, so Mrs. Greenswan followed my lead to an extent.  But we talked about our various views toward money and we came up with financial goals and ambitions for ourselves.  We combined our checking accounts and began managing our investment diversification on a combined basis.

Track and Budget Expenses!

Have order and discipline.  My wife and I come up with our annual budget together and track and review our expenses at least monthly.  Creating our budget together, and each having input and opportunity to voice opinions results in an end product that we both have bought into.

We try to keep each other honest with our spending.  We may challenge each other’s spending habits at times throughout the year, but in a constructive way.  When disagreements arise, we revert back to our financial goals and ground ourselves.

If we see ourselves beginning to spend a bit too much money on certain expense categories, like dinning out or shopping, we try to tighten up the next couple months to get back in order.

Leave the Ego at the Door!

When it comes to marriage, there is no room for ego or power status.  Nothing should change in a relationship if you make more or less money than your spouse.  If so, resentment will take over.  There should be no “mine or yours”, just “ours”.

Treat Yourself!

We both work hard to be financially prudent and live relatively frugal lifestyles.  It isn’t always easy.  So we try to treat ourselves occasionally.  Taking a step back and smelling the roses.  Enjoying what we work so hard for.  On the random occasion my wife will treat herself by heading to the spa for a massage or to get her nails done and I will occasionally treat myself with a fancy bottle of whiskey.

“Wait, you manage your money separately…”

Everyone couple has their own unique ways of managing their finances.  Some choose to keep things completely separate and split expenses, others combine accounts but create special buckets for the occasional splurge.  And that’s fine, who am I to say that can’t work.

But have you planned for the long-term?  How does retirement look?  If one hits their target net worth for retirement, but the other hasn’t, then what?

I guess I just don’t understand the point to have and manage retirement accounts separate.  Won’t you be retiring together and spending from the same nest egg?

Wait, you want me to institute a “time-out” corner for over-spending…

As a last resort it may not hurt…sometimes adults need to be treated like kids to get the point across.  And it is always good to have a bit of a cooling off period anyway.

As I type this, I currently reside in the time-out corner because my wife does not think the image above is very “politically correct”.  I suppose it is a little shallow, but I thought it was funny…

Alright the wait is over…I have the perfect remake for the Beatles: All you need is love, respect, caring, selflessness, generosity, patience, forgiveness and more love…

It may not have the same ring, does it?  But it is more accurate.  What do you and your spouse do to help avoid or resolve money fights?  Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for taking a look.

The Green Swan

Picture Source: Identity-mag.com

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{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Apathy Ends June 22, 2016, 4:26 am

    We used to fight about money, back when we didn’t have any and the bills were coming in to fast.

    Now that we have a safety net, we rarely fight about money. We employee the same technique when we over spend, take a few months off to right the ship and move on.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 4:55 am

      Very good, I think it is helpful to keep a broader perspective of money and your goals rather than getting caught up in the issue. Righting the ship over the next few months is exactly what we try to do too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pennypincher June 22, 2016, 4:48 am

    Brilliant post! And that photo!! lol! Looks like my neighbors across the street. Wifey gets everything she ever wants, and a new shiny car every few years-nice!
    Seriously, the prenuptial counseling is fantastic. The prenuptial agreement is very interesting too. I agree w/it all. I’ll never forget when a celebrity (can’t think of her name!) married Tom Cruise. Well, her father, an attorney, made them sign something like a 30 page pre-nup agreement! He did it to protect his daughter and it paid off, for sure.
    I am saving this post for my kids to see when they marry someday. Thanks for the thought provoking, entertaining post, Green Swan. May you save us all from divorce court!

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 4:58 am

      Haha that’s a funny story, that pre-nup definitely paid off :). Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Thias @It Pays Dividends June 22, 2016, 4:49 am

    My wife and I very rarely fight about money. We have essentially developed a system that works well for us and luckily both of us are savers more than spenders so that has made life much easier for both of us.

    One thing we need to work on is that I handle our finances almost exclusively. We are trying to start up monthly meetings right now to review spending from the prior month and then net worth reviews every quarter just so she has a better understanding of our financial picture.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 5:02 am

      That’s a great plan. We do something very similar in terms of regular meetings and discussions. Finance isn’t my wife’s favorite topic, but I remind her that if something happens to me she will need to be able to step in and take over managing it. She knows enough to be dangerous at this point. Thanks for sharing!

      • Stockbeard June 22, 2016, 9:22 am

        I’d be interested to know, do you share sensitive information such as passwords, etc… to your accounts with your wife, in case something happens to you? If so, how do you share those securely?

        • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 10:11 am

          I’m sure there are better ways to manage passwords, but we have a file that is shared on a cloud service that maintains that info.

          • retirebyforty June 22, 2016, 10:24 am

            Whoa, that does not seem very secure. I have a spreadsheet in my local PC. I guess that’s not very secure either…

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline June 22, 2016, 4:58 am

    My partner and I manage our finances (except for the house) completely separate. It’s worked well for us over the past 7 years. Honestly, I don’t want someone telling me how to save or spend. And I know he feels like same way. He earns a lot more than me, so our individual spending habits reflect that.

  • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 5:00 am

    That’s a great plan. We do something very similar in terms of regular meetings and discussions. Finance isn’t my wife’s favorite topic, but I remind her that if something happens to me she will need to be able to step in and take over managing it. She knows enough to be dangerous at this point. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tyler @ I Am The Future Me June 22, 2016, 5:22 am

    What a great article. My wife and I fought so much about money for a long time. It t was because I was in charge of all the money and constantly saying no we can’t do that. So I put her in charge and she soon found out that we cannot do all the things that she kept trying to do. It worked for us and now the system is way better and we rarely fight.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 6:43 am

      It helps when it is a team effort, that is for sure. Good for you two and thanks for sharing!

  • [email protected] Smarter Decisions June 22, 2016, 5:46 am

    Love this post and you are right – love matters most! (Well and being on the same page about finances too…) We keep all of our money together but we meet each month and have a money up”date” (kind of like date night for us FI geeks…) We have found that this works quite well. It doesn’t take very long and it helps us stay connected on this very important topic. Once or twice a year we do more lengthy meetings where we review our net worth, credit card points/airline miles, retirement accounts, etc. too. You “young” folks have this figured out much earlier than we did. Kudos to you for that!

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 6:45 am

      Very good plan, I like the idea of making a “date” out of it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pia @ Mama Hustle June 22, 2016, 5:57 am

    I officially took over managing our finances at the beginning of the year, with the exception of our personal “fun money” accounts. We’ve combined finances, but still each have a small separate account that we put about $100 into every month. That way I can drink lattes with “my” money, and Hubs can treat himself a little too, without feeling like he has to check with me first.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 6:48 am

      I think my wife would like a “fun money” account that she could tap into occasionally. Sometimes I can be a bit too tight with our money, so it would give her more freedom. But I’ve loosened up more recently and we do a good job meeting half way.

  • Dividend Growth Investor June 22, 2016, 6:53 am

    Great, now I have this song stuck in my head for the rest of the day…

    Very nice article by the way TGS! I will be following along your journey toward FI from now on.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 7:20 am

      There could be worse songs to have stuck in your head at least… 🙂

      Thanks for following my journey to FI!

  • Ty @ Get Rich Quickish June 22, 2016, 6:56 am

    Money definitely helps. A lot! For example, every Friday night is date night for me and my wife. For many years we couldn’t afford to pay for both the date and for a babysitter to watch our kids for a few hours. But now that finances have improved and we can go out on a regular basis our relationship also get strengthened.

    And that picture…she must be LOADED because he’s clearly 3 times the person she is! 🙂

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 7:19 am

      Haha exactly! The caption to the picture is all wrong!

      That is fantastic, we’ve tried the occasional date night too and having that one-on-one time makes a big difference. Unfortunately are go-to babysitter just moved…so we are on the lookout for another good one. Thanks for sharing!

      • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes June 23, 2016, 2:35 am

        For what it’s worth, I thought the picture was really funny.

        There’s many forms of humor, but the picture nailed several of them: Surprise, absurdity, and raw truthfulness.

        • The Green Swan June 23, 2016, 4:33 am

          Ha, thanks Mr. Tako, I think it helps bring a laugh or two to an otherwise serious discussion.

  • Physician on FIRE June 22, 2016, 7:35 am

    Maybe the guy with the babe has an outstanding sense of humor. And is a really, really good cook.

    My wife and I have the same approach to money. I think we play off each other’s frugal tendencies. I know she wouldn’t waste money on something, so I don’t want to spend on something that could be seen as frivolous, and so on…

    I briefly entertained the idea of a pre-nup, but realized it would be meaningless since neither one of us entered into marriage with any significant assets. I had a lot invested in my education, but income potential doesn’t mean squat in that regard. We keep our finances together. Our FI number (hit last year) was based on the spending of our family of 4. I’m the only one making money, so it will have to be a mutual decision for me to RE. It’s something we talk about often now, and we remain on the same page.

    Great guest post, Green Swan. Cheers!
    PoF

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 8:10 am

      That definitely helps to have the same spending/saving tendencies. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you as you approach RE.

  • Mike H. June 22, 2016, 7:40 am

    Wouldn’t “Can’t Buy Me Love” have been more appropriate?

    I see money come between couples all the time. But that can be a good thing depending on 1) when the argument happens, and 2) how honest you are willing to be. Basically, the earlier you get on the same page, the better.

    I’d recommend a prenup to just about everybody, even if it only extends to your retirement accounts. It’s a tough conversation to have, but I’ve seen enough EDROs/QDROs/court orders for one lifetime, and the last thing I want to see is one with my name on it. As terrible as this sounds, the person who marries you and the person who divorces you are very different people…and the latter isn’t likely to be logical, fair, or forgiving…

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 8:09 am

      That would have been appropriate as well, good one! And thanks for the tips.

  • Fiscally Free June 22, 2016, 7:57 am

    I completely agree about combining finances.
    Just because your spouse has a separate account doesn’t mean their spending won’t upset you. You need to be on the same page as your partner.
    My wife and I discuss just about every purchase and that works for us.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 8:09 am

      Yeah I agree, whether they are separate or together it helps to be on the same page with regards to saving/spending.

  • aB June 22, 2016, 8:09 am

    Good article, but seems to be missing the word ‘trust’, should at least appear somewhere in there.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 8:31 am

      Thanks for pointing this out, trust is obviously important cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

  • Eric Bowlin June 22, 2016, 9:02 am

    I think there are pros and cons to managing money together and separately. I think the good parts of having them separate was already overly talked about so I won’t go down that rabbit hole…

    As far as cons…It scares me to think about what retirement looks like if one partner was great financially, and one was not. Since you’re in it together, clearly one spouse will have to subsidize the other one. Hopefully the more responsible one was able to save enough for 2 people.

    If your spouse doesn’t save, it becomes your problem later on….so their spending/saving habits are your concern as your habits are their concern.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 9:09 am

      I think that is a very valid concern, Eric, and the same thing I don’t understand with it either. That’s one of the main reasons why we’ve elected to manage them together. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • Jay June 22, 2016, 11:01 am

    I think having separate accounts is definitely a good idea. Most people should have divorce contingency plan these days as this is probably one of the most likely and highest magnitude ways for a person to lose wealth. I know a guy who was totally destroyed by an insane wife who controlled his finances and every move. She would give him a certain amount of time to go to the grocery store and if he wasn’t back in time she would scream at him. She basically abused him. She was going to divorce him so she quit her job a year before divorcing him in order to maximize the amount of money she could take from him in the future as a percentage of his income.

    This may not be a politically correct thing to say but if you are a guy you’ve really got to watch out these days. I know a couple of men in scenarios where they are paying out such high amounts of their income to former wives that they are screwed financially. If you are a guy you also have to watch out for a woman pretending that you injured them in some way. If you get into a verbal argument it may be a good idea to just leave the area or start to video tape the argument for evidence. One person I talked to said they left their front door wide open and stood near the entrance hoping that a neighbor could confirm that he didn’t beat his girlfriend after he had been previously accused of said activity with a different woman and actually went to jail overnight and had to go to anger management + women’s rights classes. This happened when the evidence against him was non-existent. He is entirely paranoid and scared to death of having a relationship with anyone.

    • The Green Swan June 22, 2016, 11:46 am

      Wow those are some unreal situations, absolutely crazy! And now I am officially over my head in terms of relationship advice, but I think that is where the pre-marriage counseling could have been very beneficial.

  • Rudy SMT June 23, 2016, 8:06 am

    Green Swan,

    Great topic!

    I love the prenuptial counseling. I didn’t have the same opportunity, that would have helped us a lot to think about our marriage.

    I think most people going into a marriage without counseling is a big risk. Let me explain.

    Before I got married I was a totally different person than after we got our first baby. The switching point came as a shock to me, I saw things from a different perspective.

    Money in most families is an issue, better be richer than poorer for that matter.

    • The Green Swan June 23, 2016, 8:21 am

      Good point Rudy, I agree, I too was a totally different person when I was married compared to now. Not only with the birth of our first, but we were married relatively young too. Life changes, circumstances change, income levels change, etc.

  • [email protected] Turtle June 25, 2016, 8:14 am

    Mr. Frugal Turtle and I are on the same page with money. We aren’t married yet, so we keep our money seperate, but we have the same goal- FIRE.

    He grew up saving money, and was better off financially when we started dating, however, I’m slowly catching up to him in savings/investments.

    We talk about money all the time and never argue about it, probably because we don’t really spend it. 🙂 I have a feeling we would do great during the pre-marriage counseling.

    • The Green Swan June 26, 2016, 5:13 pm

      That is awesome! Great that you guys are working together as a team with a common goal. It certainly sounds like you would do great during the counseling! Thanks for sharing.

  • Centsai June 27, 2016, 1:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing this post! It’s really important not to let finances get in the way of happiness in a relationship. As a wise woman once said, “the relationship we have with money itself sets the tone for the relationships we have with significant others. It’s in everyone’s best interest to do what we can to improve it.” http://bit.ly/293aFIe

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