..or so I was asked by a woman of her fiancé during a radio interview last week in Hong Kong. And here’s the answer: If you are already thinking about hiding money from your fiancé, then you are either marrying the wrong guy or you are living in the 20th century.
The blowback came hard and swift, with women telling me a whole range of stories ie that their husbands hid money from them, that they inherited money they want for themselves, that they were kept in the dark about the family finances so why shouldn’t they keep their husband in the dark. It seems that everyone wants to stuff money in a mattress, a kimono or an offshore bank account.
Now you know why they say that money is the #1 cause for divorce.
But this statistic is deeply misconstrued - money in and of itself is not the cause of anyone’s divorce. Rather it is your money narrative that leads you (and your fiancé/spouse) into a pattern of behavior around money that is either beneficial to your household, and to one another, or not. Your money narrative is what you believe money can and cannot do for you. And it’s a dated or damaging money narrative that can make you feel afraid, insecure, incapable, entitled or clinging to money with a vice grip for control.
No one is born with a money narrative. More often than not, you get your money narrative from your parents, aunts, uncles and peers as well as from your culture. This money narrative has come to define how and what you think about money, your rights to accessing and investing money and its role in your marriage. And here’s the problem: Most of these people who shaped your money narrative were born in a completely different world - the early to mid 20th century – than we live in today.
Financial stability for women in the 20th century meant either having a husband or having a job - very “Laverne and Shirley” you know working at the bottling plant in Milwaukee. 21st century financial security and wealth creation will focus on an entirely new set of things: how to cooperate and run a household with two working parents; how to invest money so one partner can take time away from work to raise a family or start a business; and how to deal with the unexpected realities of life such as job loss. The 21st century marriage is also more business-like and realistic about money – pre-nuptual agreements and trust instruments, as opposed to mattresses, will become de rigueur to protect whomever has wealth coming into the marriage.
The best marriages share similar traits around money, as do the most destructive ones (I’ll save that for another newsletter). But marriages that stay together by choice, not necessity, operate with a foundation of transparency and fairness between partners where finances are concerned. The partners communicate and compromise when it comes to budgeting, spending and investing. And both parties are involved in one way or another with long term financial decisions.
You may have gotten married in the 20th century, but we are officially living in the 21st century now. So if your household is all dungeons, dragons, cloaks and daggers where finances are concerned, start rewriting outdated money narratives if yours is not working for you. This is particularly true if you have children, because how you handle money and communicate with your partner will play a larger role than you could ever imagine in your child’s future financial success and long term happiness within a relationship.
Here is some homework for anyone wanting to improve their money narrative.
Reflection 1: Reflect on your Money Narrative.
What are your earliest experiences with what money can and cannot buy you? How did you learn about savings and investing? How did your parents handle money and how did they discuss issues around money? Do you control money or does money control you? Have your ideas about money and investing come from your family, your peer group or from your personal experiences? Do they help you with your goals or hinder you? How do you feel when you hear the words “rich” or “poor”.
Reflection 1b: Understand the Money Narrative of your partner if you have one and find a way to use common language when discussing money.
Primary 3 Math: Put together a balance sheet ie all your assets and all of your debts. Subtract your assets from your debts. This is your networth.
Primary 5 Math: Find out by what % your networth has grown in the last 5 years.
21st Century Home Economics: Come up with a plan to “grow your networth” through savings, paying down debt and investing.
Required Reading: Mind Over Money by Brad and Ted Klontz, Own Your Financial Freedom by Andrea Kennedy