Finding intimacy in finances

Marketplace Staff Nov 6, 2009

Finding intimacy in finances

Marketplace Staff Nov 6, 2009


TESS VIGELAND: We’ve been exploring how to talk to kids about money. And by and large we have found it’s not easy. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Author and financial planner Jacquette Timmons says we can barely talk to other adults about money, especially the ones we’re in relationships with. Timmons collected stories about money and love from all kinds of couples in her book “Financial Intimacy.” It aims to help people understand their own financial lives so they can better relate to a partner. But before we get to Jacquette, we thought we’d find some couples here in Los Angeles and ask how they deal with money.

Ryan and Liz Miller provided us with one… um… model…

Ryan Miller: Well let’s see, she tells me her financial plan, and I follow it as far as I’m interested to.

Liz Miller: Yeah. Well, I don’t know.

Ryan: We’re saving up for a house right now, so pretty much everything is necessity. Well we both work, and we share our bank accounts.

Liz: We know how much each other makes. We know where the money goes, but we also have the same goals. So…

Ryan: So getting to where you want to be, you kinda need to share that information.

Liz: I mean everything is shared, sort of.

Newlyweds Queennette Santiago and Matt Murray have a slightly different approach.

Matt Murray: I do most of the talking.

Queennette Santiago: Yeah, I leave everything up to him, actually, because I’m really bad at money. And yeah, he’s a money guru. And we play to our strengths, I guess.

Matt: I’m the saver, she’s the spender.

Queennette: I think that I should probably be a little more responsible, because I have an allowance.

Matt: Well, I’m not saying it’s not uncomfortable sometimes, we’re contentious.

Queennette: You know when my allowance, per se, is a little tight, I kind of have my tantrums every now and then.

Matt: Yes, we have credit card arguments quite often, but that’s the extent of it.

VIGELAND: Jacquette Timmons, welcome to the program.

Timmons: Thank you so much.

Vigeland: So let’s talk a little bit about this notion of financial intimacy. You know today, we earn a lot more money than we used to, as you point out in the book. But by and large, we don’t manage our money any better, don’t have much better financial security — why is that?

Timmons: Well, I think part of the reason is, because as a culture, we do not talk very much about money, at least not in a substantive way. And so many of us have not gotten a great deal of guidance with managing our money.

Vigeland: You know, I wonder why — and I’ve asked this of previous guests — but I’d like your take on why money is so much harder to talk about with our partners or spouses than just about anything else in a relationship?

Timmons: Because I think it reveals a degree of vulnerability that perhaps other things do not. It defines your success to whatever degree. It defines the degree to which you make right choices. So I think people become really self-conscious about what people will interpret, when they disclose their financial condition or they disclose the choices that they’ve made and what the consequences of those choices have been. And so you feel very vulnerable.

Vigeland: And what is the best way to get over that? I mean it’s a lot easier said than done. It’s not exactly romantic.

Timmons: I actually think it really can be very romantic.

Vigeland: OK. Please explain.

Timmons: Well one of my missions is to really use the whole notion of talking about money as the unlikely tool by which people can learn more about another and as well, grow together. One of the things that I recommend to some of my coaching clients that are couples, have a glass of wine every Friday night and talk about what happened this week financially. What do we need to be prepared for next week, next month? Where’s the long term plan? I think the more frequently you have the conversation and the more frequently you have it, in the context or something other than a heated argument about money, the easier it will be.

But I think to answer your question more directly, we first have to begin to really understand what our own financial story is.

Vigeland: Well, when we think about our financial history, how do we figure out where our money habits came from? Do we then have to talk to our parents as well as our partners and spouses?

Timmons: It would be great if you could talk to your parents and have a better understanding of why they did some of the things that they did. But even if you can’t speak with them directly, for whatever the reason, you can actually just go back in memory and think about what did you notice growing up. And then just really take that out further to explore and ask the question “how has that shaped me?”

Vigeland: You know, up until a few decades ago, men pretty much managed the money. It was plain and simple. Then we women started getting jobs, we’re living on our own now for a few years before getting married. I wonder, does any of that new independence seem to have made a difference in how we approach money management with our spouse or mate?

Timmons: Absolutely. Part of the challenge is many of us are delaying marriage and partnership. And therefore, when you come to the table, you come to the table with your own spending habits, with your own spending patterns and a lot of things already entrenched. And now you’ve got to incorporate someone else and they’re coming to the table with their own routine as well. So yeah, it absolutely makes that part challenging.

Vigeland: You did more than a dozen case studies for this book. Anything shock or surprise you about how we manage our money with our mate?

Timmons: No, nothing really shocked me too much or made me go “Oh my God.” If anything, it was just really more of a affirmation that there are many women experiencing the same things, but again because we tend not to talk about it, we don’t know that our friend that we may consider our best friend is actually having the kinds of questions that she has about money and the context of her relationship, because we don’t talk about it. So I guess if there was one surprise that I could identify, it was just a confirmation that we really have to begin to be less self conscious and also just less judgmental when it comes to talking about money.

Vigeland: Jacquette Timmons is the author of “Financial Intimacy.” Thanks so much for coming in.

Timmons: Thank you so much for having me.

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