My husband and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary on October 1. All and all, we’ve had a smooth marriage without too many bumps in the road. We’ve had the typical challenges with family, kids and careers, and what married woman can’t relate to Pink’s song True Love, but one of the things that we rarely argue about is money. Actually, I think our similar philosophies about money is one of the main reasons our marriage has gone pretty smoothly. In a survey of 191 CDFA professionals across North America, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts found that “money issues” were the third leading cause of divorce.
Father Jansen, the priest who taught our Pre-Cana lessons back in 1988, would concur with me when I say that how we, as a married couple, agree to spend, save and generally handle money can make for a good marriage. But I would add this: It doesn’t necessarily make for sound financial footing. After all, you could both have similar unhealthy attitudes and habits with money as you could healthy ones.
Luckily, my husband and I both value saving and have enjoyed watching our 401(k)s grow throughout our careers. We get a thrill watching the price of a stock we’ve purchased rise. We appreciate bargains at the grocery store and when buying furniture or cars, and we also both somehow know when we should get agreement from the other to buy a high-ticket item although we’ve never verbally set ground rules for it.
We do, however, have two weaknesses. 1) We both feel that some experiences are more valuable than the money spent on them and 2) We have a tendency to over spend when it’s convenient. Both of these are things we wouldn’t do if we were more prudent with our money, but nevertheless we’ve done okay.
I know we are lucky. I know that other couples argue regularly about money and that some are woefully mismatched in that regard. It can be very difficult for a frugal person to be married to a big spender or too easy for two big spenders to get themselves into financial trouble. But I have learned in talking to clients that there isn’t one “right” philosophy to have about money just like there isn’t one “right” philosophy about how to live your life.
I was raised to study in school, graduate college, get a job, save for retirement, and someday retire in comfort living a traditional retirement. Pretty straight forward, right? And for the most part, that’s how my life has gone. But there are a lot of people who weren’t raised that way, or because of life’s circumstances have not lived their life that way, or even yet don’t believe that path is the right one for them.
Some people have never had a high enough paying job to see the forest for the trees and been able to save. Some people make enough money, but don’t know how to get started so have just never gotten around to saving anything their whole adult life. Or some have never had the type of career where a 401(k)-type account was an option. While others are in their 90s and still saving and hoping to grow their investments. Or some deprive themselves of nice things now in the name of growing their coffers for the future. I even have a friend who has come to terms with the fact that every time she has built up any kind of nest egg, a crisis in her life has resulted in the depletion of that nest egg. So she now lives by the philosophy that whatever happens to her in her old age will be something different than how she lives now and that’s just how it is.
As a financial planner, I’ve learned to keep in mind that what I consider traditional retirement goals may not be what my client wants. I make a point not to put my own goals in the place of theirs while still urging them to think about what they do want and laying out a play to achieve it. I urge you to sit quietly with your thoughts and really think about what you want for your future.