Financial Feud: Keep it private vs. Share your story

Financial Feud

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The Argument:

Jay

U.S. News and World Report recently wrote an article on what couples should know about each other’s finances before getting married. I told my wife I wanted to share our story, but she was against it. She was uncomfortable disclosing information about our personal finances in a public forum. I said being able to talk openly about money is one of the most important financial lessons we’ve learned as a couple, and we should share it with others. AM I RIGHT?

Expert Opinion:

Financial Feud

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Jay

The Argument:

My wife and I started dating in our 30s and had very different approaches to finances. She was a social worker, trying to pay off grad school and living hand-to-mouth. I was COO of a successful organic food company. Our upbringing also played a role. Her family was tight-lipped about money, while mine was more open about it.

As a result, we have different comfort levels when it comes to talking about personal finances. For her there are a lot of emotions attached, whereas I see budgets more analytically, as a way to look at things and decide what’s important. To keep the peace, we had to work through these differences as we combined our finances and merged very different asset and debt pools. Once we got over the initial reactions and emotions, it became really easy.

Now, we use a spreadsheet to track expenses together. We’ve had some pretty big adjustments to our income since then, but we’re really open about it now. We don’t fight; we just make a plan and go forward.

Ironically, when I told my wife I wanted to share our story of fiscal openness, she was uncomfortable disclosing details in public. Eventually she came around -- and even consented to sharing our argument with Marketplace Money -- but it just goes to show you that for some people personal finances really are personal.

There’s a difference between disclosing details about your own personal finances and talking about the kind of financial issues (in a generic rather than specific sense) you feel are important to discuss as a couple before marrying. I think of your story as modeling that kind of good, open communication and partnership in financial decisions that you and your wife have, rather than an inappropriate divulging of too much of your personal financial data. That’s great, and you should both be proud to share your story!

About the author

Diane Lim is a DC-area economist dedicated to wise, fiscally-responsible and socially-valuable public policies, and a mom dedicated to four great kids.

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