If I asked you “how is your relationship with money”, what would you say? Would you shrug and mutter “um, good, I guess?” or “I have a love/hate relationship with money” or maybe “I try not to think about it too much?” Okay, now what if I rephrased the question. “If money was a person in your life, say a spouse or a family member, how would you describe your relationship with him/her?”
Now I bet we will get some enlightening answers.
Would you say that you and money have a healthy relationship with clear boundaries?
Would you say that you take care of your money’s needs and in turn it takes care of yours?
Do you nurture it and allow it to grow or do you neglect it and not pay any attention to it, hoping it’ll grow just fine?
Or do you view money as an estranged relative? You know it exists, but you rarely interact with them and they probably don’t even know what’s going on in your life?
Maybe money is the annoying younger sibling when you were a teen; always trying to get your attention, someone you have to take along everywhere, ruining your fun?
When you hear people talk about the relationships in their lives, they usually refer to the two most important ones as the one you have with yourself, and the next is the one you have with your partner. How unromantic and distasteful to insert a thing like money into the equation.
Yet, this thing is so influential it can drive a wedge between you two, or bond you together.
Many interviews with divorcing couples found that money was among the top reasons for the ending of the relationship. Even in strong relationships, arguments about money are bound to come up. For those who are not in a current relationship with another individual, you still have one with money. Like it or not, money is essential to our current economic system. It’s like family or in-laws, you’re stuck with them.
If you described your relationship with money as more on the avoidance and neglect spectrum, you and money are headed for a break up. The good news is you can repair this relationship. Here are five steps to how you can develop a healthy relationship with money.
1. End Neglect.
Just like a flower will bloom when sunlight shines upon it, your relationship will improve as you start to pay attention to it. The simple act of recognizing that money is an influential force in your life is empowering because now you can decide if the influence will be positive or negative.
2. Repair Your Relationship.
To repair a relationship, you must first understand how you got here. Was it one significant event? Maybe you got divorced and with starting over, you never quite got back on your feet. Or was it a series of small events? Maybe last year was filled with financial emergencies; car repairs, roof repairs, fridge replacement. Perhaps it was in your control; an extended shopping spree to get out of a “funk”. Knowing some of the causes can help you plan for your future together.
3. Understand your Partner.
Relationships take work, like learning and accepting your spouse instead of projecting your ideals onto them. You must learn his or her true character, and how he or she might respond in certain situations. You’ll have to do the same with money. What are its characteristics? How does it behave during certain economic times? Take time to read a couple more articles about it or invite a money-savvy bestie to coffee.
4. Take Action to Change.
You know the saying “you are the common denominator in all your bad relationships?” As ugly as that is to hear sometimes, we have to admit, there is an ounce of truth there. Money doesn’t change, and it won’t change, therefore we must change. Instead of having the same fight again and again, do one thing that starts the road to repair. Set up a direct deposit for $50 into a savings account regularly. Add $10 to your regular payment of your student loans. Momentum is a lovely thing, in a series of little repairs, you’ll start to form a better relationship.
5. Check in Regularly.
As with all relationships, we are constantly growing and evolving, so we need to check in with our partner to make sure we are on the same page. Often times, when a couple has kids, the advice for them is to go on dates with each other regularly. Despite busy schedules, the couple must make time for each other and maintain their strong bond — the same goes for money. Just because you have repaired your relationship, you must regularly check in, if only to be reassured that you are still on the same page.
Every relationship is one of give and take. Your relationship with money is no different. If you used to have debt, but have since paid it off, your money now needs you to save it. If you have built an emergency fund whereas you didn’t before, now your money needs you to invest it. When you invest in the relationship, you’ll soon see the partner respond in positive ways. When your car dies on the side of a highway and you need a tow, your money will take care of you. When you want to send your child off to university, your money will take care of them.
Positive relationship habits are built over time, a year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.