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Money talk and relationships

Sean Cole Mar 13, 2009

Money talk and relationships

Sean Cole Mar 13, 2009


Tess Vigeland: You hear it all the time: money is one of the main reasons for marital spats if not out-and-out battles. But
a young financial planner in Boston says she has a remedy: learn how to talk
about money early in your relationship, do it often and, of course, keep it
sexy. That’s right. Lisa Peterson and her firm Lantern Financial have created a seminar called “Pillow Talk: Make Talking About Money Sexy in Your Marriage.” Marketplace’s Sean Cole attended the most recent event, alone, and brought back this report.

Sean Cole: You might expect the leader of a
seminal like this to show up in black, strapless mini-dress and stiletto
heels. You’d be wrong.

LISA PETERSON: I’m really happy
you’ve all decided to come join us tonight. And–

Lisa Peterson is business casual, and a little bashful, standing in front of
a laptop at the front of the room.

PETERSON: And we are going to
talk about making money sexy in your relationship through, of course, a Power Point presentation because what’s more sexy than that?

She’s held a few of these events. This one’s in a Boston sports bar. A dozen
or so attendees munch on nachos and buffalo wings, listening as Lisa tells
them to think romance when talking finance.

PETERSON: You could light some
candles, you could put on some lingerie, you could sip some wine to talk
about money together.

She has ten basic tips, a lot of them dripping with double entendre. For
instance, when you don’t have time for a lengthy discussion about money–

PETERSON: Have a quickie. Try to quickly check in with each other, whether in person or through the use of
little financial love notes.

Cole: Hey baby, I put another
$400 in the joint account today. Rwarrr!


Lisa does the presentation out of love, but there’s a financial reason too.
She’s hoping to convert a few of the attendees into clients.

PETERSON: I do financial
counseling through a unique program that we started called “Harmoney.” And
that’s for engaged and newlywed couples.

Cole: And that’s


She uses games and activities to help couples learn about each others’
monetary habits and histories. It’s all part of the same philosophy.

PETERSON: Taking financial
matters out of the sexy part of your life and advocating it to sort of the
last thing that you want to talk about that makes it feel like a punishment.
Why not just sort of just incorporate it all together and make it be a fun,
sexy part of your daily life.

Why not even make it the opposite of a punishment, Lisa says. One of the tips at the “Pillow Talk” event is rewarding each other after financial

PETERSON: And you know, I’ll
leave the reward system up to you. Remember that the best things in life are

As are the prizes handed out at the end of the event. Almost everyone who
turned up got a prize. One guy won a dream date for two at Fenway Park.

PRIZE DRAWER: And the winner is,
Bryan Dove.

Bryan Dove is here with his fiance Melanie Picket.

BRYAN DOVE: We just got engaged
in December and we’ve been discussing finances. I think I like to discuss it
more than she does.

MELANIE PICKETT: And he really
likes to keep track of everything we spend. And I’m just like try to save
money but you don’t have to keep track of it all.

They both said the tips might make these discussions less painful. And when I emailed two weeks later, they still hadn’t tried them. But I met with a
couple who had. Matt Childers and Kaleen Konrad.

Cole: When did you get

Kaleen Konrad: Last

MATT CHILDERS: Yes. I should
know the exact date. I know it’s March, March 23rd 22nd.

Konrad: 12th.

Childers: 12th! There was a two
in there.

They both work at Merck, the pharmaceutical company. Anyway, they took a few
of the tips to heart — setting a canoodley mood for their budget discussion.

Konrad: So we had a glass of
wine and tried to make it more casual and not stressful.

They also did a little role reversal.

Cole: Did you wear some of her

Childers: We didn’t take it that far.

Usually Kaleen pays the bills. So Matt took over for a couple of months, and
realized how in the dark he was about their finances.

Childers: How much money was
going to electricity or to gas and, you know, what did that leave for clothes
in the budget? I don’t know. I just say we don’t have enough for it. So yeah
I realized I need to help out more. I would act like I knew what was
happening with our finances but I don’t or didn’t.

Maybe in part because of his upbringing. Matt never really knew much about
his family’s budget growing up, whereas Kaleen always saw her dad fussing
with the books. Lisa calls this their “financial ancestry.” We tend to think
of money as a utility, but it’s so intricately linked with who we are. And
yet, for a lot of couples, it’s the only topic they avoid.

PETERSON: I think people are
willing to talk about things that are emotional but money’s a funny thing in
that way because we’re not taught that it’s emotional. And so you feel the
emotions inside you when you start talking about the money but you just don’t know how to be successful in that way, how to talk about it

I asked Lisa if she uses these tips in her own marriage. She does. In fact,
she and her husband may have made their money conversations a little too sexy. Lisa’s baby is due in May.

In Boston, I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace Money.

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