Money & how to manage this difficult subject as a team instead of ignoring the problems or constantly fighting. Money is a powerful force that touches every aspect of our lives, and when it comes to romantic partnerships, it can be a source of unity or division. 

money, finances, wealth, relationships, marriage, couplesgoals

How Couples Can Win with Finances

Money & how to manage this difficult subject as a team instead of ignoring the problems or constantly fighting. Money is a powerful force that touches every aspect of our lives, and when it comes to romantic partnerships, it can be a source of unity or division. 

In this episode, we’ll unravel the common challenges couples face when managing their finances and explore effective solutions to foster a harmonious financial relationship.

Couples today encounter a variety of financial hurdles, stemming from differences in spending habits, income disparities, contrasting financial goals, or even conflicting values about money. It’s essential to acknowledge that these challenges are part of the financial journey for many couples, and understanding how to navigate them is crucial for a successful, united financial team that works together.

Honestly consider what are your strengths & weaknesses financially, how can you do better? Money is so easy to avoid & it’s important to find the courage to look at the reality of your financial situation. You can make different kinds of choices & learn how to improve.

Managing money means open communication to bridge the gaps in working as a team. It would totally help to have enough self awareness to acknowledge “I know it’s too easy for me to spend money and I need to work on that.” or “I know I can be frugal with money and deprive us of doing things for pleasure.” or “ It’s hard for me to face living on more of a budget.” Try making I statements by considering your part in the problems instead of the more comforting attack mode.

I have often asked my individuals & couples who talk about debt how much is the interest on each credit card? I’m astonished how many people don’t have an answer. So for homework I ask them to look it up & apply it to the amount they owe. High interest rates are facts that do not deserve to be ignored.

I had a book in my waiting room called Die Broke, which I don’t believe in the title because no one knows when death will arrive but what I liked was the sage advice that the two things worth spending money on were education & experiences. Stop & ask yourself what do you think matters & is worth spending money on?

Secrets about debt or spending are not fair to your partner. Compromise, negotiation & sacrifice are all skill sets that get better with practice. Examine the financial strengths & weaknesses of the family you grew up in. I went to college wearing the same ugly pea soup green winter coat I’d had since 8th grade. It was my husband who convinced me to ask my Dad for $50. to buy a new coat. I still remember it, cranberry with style to die for….so etched in my memory as a huge deal.

Power struggles can erupt around money. I remember the wife in her late 70’s & she knew nothing about their finances in retirement. Diffuse power struggles by listening to each other so that you truly understand what is hard for your partner about finances….leave room for facing hard truths in order to reduce shame. Growing up is honestly facing difficult situations as I constantly remind my audience.

To make it easier to grow up & face difficult financial situations is my guest; Bill Nelson is a certified financial planner & a certified financial therapist which is such
a unique combination of skills. He has experience helping couples manage their finances as a team and to evaluate & prioritize financial goals. he is the founder of Pacesetter Planning LLC. He offers a free guide The Newlywed Money Checklist on his website pacesetter planning.com

Let’s begin with how do you get your spouse on board with making financial changes?

It’s a great question, Rhoda. Thanks so much for having me first and foremost. So that’s the million dollar question, I find, no pun intended with the money piece, right? The easy answer that often is one that people have tried before, but I’m just gonna challenge your audience. Have you asked your spouse to make financial changes? Has that actually been communicated directly with them?

Rhoda Sommer (06:14.513)
Good point, excellent, yeah.

Bill Nelson (06:16.26)
Because often like these sorts of issues really truly are communication issues at the end of the day and so before

we start wondering why changes aren’t happening, make sure you’ve asked them. Now, often when people ask me that question, they have tried before and I’ve either gotten shut down or dismissed or things just haven’t happened. And so if that’s the case, I would invite you to try to just do some self-diagnosis as to where the conversations have gone wrong before. Just like you’re going to a doctor, doctors don’t just pull out the prescription pad as soon as you get in the door and start writing prescriptions about how to fix things.

They go through a diagnosis process, right? They look at your nose, they take your temperature, the blood pressure, all that before they start to write prescriptions and you want to do the same thing here. So the first thing I look at are

How have you asked them before? What sort of tone was used? Right. Because I find that often with an emotional topic like money, we drift into the four horsemen territory, which is the relationship, the communication styles that were first kind of coined by Dr. John Gottman that are often correlated with failure in marriages down the road. So criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are his four horsemen.

you have been having these conversations with those types of communication styles, that is an easy, easy way for them to, for the conversation to fall off the rails. So the first thing I would just invite you to do is take a step back and do a little bit of self reflecting on that and course correct as you need to. And that frankly is true regardless of what you’re talking about, whether it’s money or something else from there, put yourself in your, in your partner’s spouse’s shoes, right? Where.

Bill Nelson (08:04.696)
try to understand where things have gone wrong, right? Is it, has it been a problem in the way that you’re asking?

Yeah, sometimes it is, right? Either you’re not being clear enough, direct enough, you’re not coming on strongly enough, you’re coming on too strongly and pushing them away. That can happen sometimes too. You’re asking them at not the right time. If my wife asked me something after 9 p.m. on a workday, like my mind is just gone, right? No matter how important it is to me, like I’m not always gonna hear what she’s asking me for at that point in time. Right, go through that process and just try to see if there’s anything that you can tweak in your approach.

Or is it something on their end? Right. Are there feelings of shame, guilt, resentment about the issues related to the money that we’re talking about? Is there anxiety there? Do they have just a very different perspective and point of view that?

like you’ve had some disagreements on in the past, but you just, you want to try to understand where the conversations have gone awry before, and then tailor your approach accordingly, right? The easiest way to do that, I find, is to ask for something small to get the process started, right? Don’t just go up to your partner and say, hey, let like, you know, I want to make XYZ financial changes. We need to get on a budget. We need to do this. Instead, what you might do is ask to set up some time in the next week or two, where you can sit down and talk about

that’s really important to you which is just our overall financial trajectory or our financial goals or whatever it might be.

Rhoda Sommer (09:32.91)
I think so many people just entirely avoid the conversation as if it’s a good idea to do that. You know? And it kind of amazes me. Sex and money are two of the big problems in relationships, and the two things I think people talk about the least or avoid the most, whichever way you want to put it. I love what you said about putting your…
soul into the where the other person might be coming from so that you might be able to make that conversation a little bit easier and thinking about how you’re approaching it you can even begin with this is really hard for me I’m not exactly sure how to do this in a good way but I really think we need to talk about it you know yes

Bill Nelson (10:19.541)
Yeah, starting off asking for their perspective is always a good way to start that conversation as well.

Rhoda Sommer (10:25.898)
Yes. Some of the most common financial dilemmas couples face, such as disagreements over spending, saving, and investing. How do you encourage couples to work with their differing money mindsets?

Bill Nelson (10:40.357)
I love this one because first and foremost the thing you need to understand is that having different money mindsets in a marriage is normal.

There is a growing body of research that suggests that we attract our financial opposites. You’ve heard the expression opposites attract, but it is literally true more often than not when it comes to financial issues. And the ways that these differences can manifest, like they can sometimes manifest in different ways. Oftentimes we talk about spending and saving differences where one person wants to save more and the other person’s more inclined to spend money, but there’s a wide variety of ways that we can,
things involving risk and security and how hands-on you want to be with managing finances. You know, there’s a lot of different ways that can play out.

When it comes to money mindsets, frankly, I find most people don’t have a good grasp on their own money mindsets to begin with. And so when you enter a conversation trying to understand your spouse’s money mindset and how it’s affecting your day to day financial decisions, like it’s really hard to do that effectively if you don’t understand your own money mindset to begin with. And so I encourage couples to explore this idea of money mindset together.

understanding that you probably are going to have some differences and the degree to which you can understand both your own perspective and each other’s, it can help illuminate and give some context to some of the conflict that can come up. In the financial therapy world, we have this concept called money scripts, which are unconscious beliefs that we have that almost play in our heads like an actor’s script would, tend to be developed in childhood that guide a lot of the financial decisions that we make.

They’re typically incomplete or partial truths that are capable of being changed. For example, something like people get rich by taking advantage of others. It is a statement you can make that you may completely agree with. You may completely disagree with. You and your spouse may have different perspectives on that. And that can that sort of unconscious belief can drive the way you approach financial decisions. Another example is having more money would make me happier.

Rhoda Sommer (12:37.013)
Mmm.

Bill Nelson (12:56.13)
it would be another example of a money script. And to a certain degree, in some context, that can be true, right? If you’re really struggling financially, I’m not one who believes that money can’t buy you happiness. Now money can buy you happiness to a degree, right? But that being said, right? More money will make me happier or solve all my problems isn’t necessarily true, right? Money might solve a health problem that you have. Money might solve loneliness problems if you’re feeling isolated from your family for whatever reason.

sometimes can make those things worse. Understanding those types of money strips is really important because they do drive our financial decisions and our financial behavior. And so what I often encourage couples to do is just explore those types of concepts together but understanding that you’re each kind of doing independent work on that.

And the goal isn’t necessarily to change your spouse’s money scripts, but to understand how their kind of unconscious beliefs about money are manifesting in the conversations you’re having and to do work on your own more problematic money scripts that hold you back.

Rhoda Sommer (14:03.182)
It’s so interesting. I’ve never heard anybody talk about that before. You know, I’ve been practicing in private practice for over 40 years and did nonprofit before. I’ve never heard anybody talk about previous money mindsets. I think that’s really interesting. What strategies do you have for couples in setting joint financial goals? I often tell each partner to list five financial priorities, then explore both lists together and make a third list with some of
important to both. I’m sure you can improve this.

Bill Nelson (14:36.192)
Hehehehe Well, what I like about that approach is it forces the couple to include both people’s perspectives. I actually do something similar oftentimes for couples who are having a hard time coming to consensus on financial issues because the process of sitting down and coming up with your own answers to the question and then meeting together and combining things, actually, I mean, it’s a really good way to make sure that one spouse isn’t completely taking over the conversation. So I like that.

You know, as far as coming up with financial goals, I think sometimes people can get tripped up around the word goals, like they can feel a little bit more intimidating, more intimidating than they actually are. Frankly, when I talk to couples, most couples deep down want the same stuff out of their lives, right? The vision that you have for your future with your spouse is typically the same. If you’re a married couple, how we get there can be, you know, the answers we have to that can be very, very different.

when we actually take a step back and say, what do we want our lives to look like 30, 40, 50 years from now? Oftentimes, you’re going to agree on the most important things there. It just is a matter of taking the time to articulate what that vision looks like in the short term. Take the time to articulate what that vision looks like in the long term, and then understand, where we are today, what are the short term steps we need to take in order to make that a reality.

to encourage couples to do this is before we even start talking about financial goals, come up with a financial mission statement for your family. Right. A couple of bullet points doesn’t need to be anything particularly long or lengthy, but just something that clearly identifies what your family’s most important priorities are. If you are imagine you’re everybody listening to pick a company that you love,
that you can’t imagine the world without. And my example I always give, I grew up in Massachusetts, I like Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s a perfectly mediocre cup of coffee. There’s nothing special about it, but I love it. And if you’re the CFO making financial decisions for Dunkin Donuts or whatever, you’re going to be able to make financial decisions for Dunkin Donuts.

so your team comes to you with a couple different investment ideas or ways that you can allocate your financial resources that all of them might look good on paper, but you can’t always do everything. So how do you prioritize? And the answer for a company’s perspective is to take a step back and look at your mission statement, right? And understand what your company is best at, what your company exists to do in the first place. The Dunkin’ Donuts mission statement, I don’t have it memorized, but it’s very much about efficiency, right? So, but get it, you

getting you what you need on time to get you going about your day. Nobody goes to Dunkin Donuts and sits and reads the newspaper or works on their laptop or anything like that, whereas their biggest competitor, Starbucks, is all about the environment and making a space where you can stay for hours and they have the music playing and like it’s there. There are two companies that are very similar that have completely different mission statements and that manifests in the experience that you have there. Now, what does all this have to do with

The same is true for you, right? Your goals and your priorities should be different from most other couples out there because your values as a family might be different as well. But it’s hard to know what those goals should be. It can be hard to come to a consensus on what those goals are until we take a step back and actually take some time to articulate what our mission is, what we’re looking to achieve deep down beyond just the finances.

Rhoda Sommer (18:24.878)
I remember reading that I’m a boomer and that a huge percentage, like 65%, I can’t remember exactly, had not saved a dime for kids for college. And that really surprised me. And so I think, you know, I just think it’s really interesting to think about what is important to you in the future and what is it you’d want to do. And we had started doing that, the state-funded…
college thing for our kids so many years ago. It was wonderful. But I like the mission, yeah.

Bill Nelson (19:00.377)
Yeah, I love that example in particular because it’s one of the clearest cases where I actually often see really strong disagreements between spouses, right? For people whose parents supported them through college, oftentimes one of their really important values as a family is to provide for my kids’ education, just like my parents did for me.

Rhoda Sommer (19:09.59)
I bet that’s true. Yeah.

Bill Nelson (19:23.036)
If you paid your way through college or you worked your way through college, like oftentimes people view that as a really formative experience that was really valuable to them and they want their kids to have as well. It’s a great example of that.

Rhoda Sommer (19:34.046)
Yeah, that’s true. What helps couples to trust each other and develop full transparency in financial matters?

Bill Nelson (19:44.229)
I love this question because my answer is a little bit snarky, if you will, but it’s important. What helps couples trust each other and develop full transparency? Being trustworthy is the best way to do that. If you are acting trustworthy yourself, that is the best step you can take to developing trust in your marriage.

Rhoda Sommer (19:49.181)
Oh good.

Bill Nelson (20:09.292)
of avoiding black and white thinking, right, certainly goes into that as well, right, there’s no, like I find couples very often fall into, to…attitudes, particularly about money, or like this financial decision is completely right or completely wrong. Having a little bit of nuance, or trying to understand where your spouse is coming from is important, but just understanding that when it comes to finances, being willing to lay everything out on the table is really, really important for the future success of your marriage. It’s one thing to decide to combine all of your accounts, that’s something you may or may not choose to do, but it’s another to keep
financial secrets. And just, I think if you can create a culture of being trustworthy in your family, right? By being completely forthcoming with your spouse and being okay with them coming to you with bad news, right? If they, if, you know, being open to them, sharing some things with you that you might not be so excited about. Like, I think that’s really important.

Rhoda Sommer (21:11.458)
So, the end of October, I interviewed a world expert on trust, and he taught me something about trust. And he said, you…

The first building block is that you want to believe that the other person has your best interests at heart. And it makes me think with finances, you want to believe that we have our best interests at heart to make our family work financially and not run into big problems.

Bill Nelson (21:45.064)
Absolutely. And that to me brings us back to this idea of the mission statement and goals, right? If we take a step back from what’s going on in our day to day lives and start looking at the life we want to build together, that can be a really good way to do that. I often find whenever there’s conflict or whenever there’s disagreements or secrets or whatever it might be on the table, I like to think, picture myself driving a car, if you will, right?

is important in a car. It’s an important tool. You want to look back from time to time at what’s happening. The stuff you see in the car, what’s happening in the present is important, the dashboard and all the different things, but you want to be looking at the road ahead as much as possible. It’s a good idea to look back in the rear view mirror or look at the dashboard periodically when you’re driving a car. If all you’re doing when you’re driving is looking in the rear view mirror, that can create problems.

Rhoda Sommer (22:41.959)
I love your analogies. They’re really good. How do couples resolve and prevent financial conflict besides that mission statement at a step you?

Bill Nelson (22:51.416)
Yeah, yeah, the short answer is try to focus on the future as much as possible, right? I find that step really does help a lot. You know, first and foremost, just kind of setting the stage for these conversations, I think is really important. Understanding that financial conflict is normal, understanding, like I said before, that we tend to attract our financial opposites, right? There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re fighting about money sometimes.

Bill Nelson (23:21.186)
sometimes more often than not that means you’re just avoiding conversations that might lead to fights about money and understanding that you know financial conflicts if handled the correct way and if you’re open to it right may actually lead you to strengthen your marriage down the road so often when we talk about money and marriage right it’s in the negative it’s about how money fights are one of the most common fights sources for couples and money fights can lead to divorce down the road but the opposite is true as well right if you can learn how to have a productive

conversations and work through financial conflicts, it can make your marriage stronger. And so that’s an important piece as well.

Balancing power in the conversation is a really hard one, and I think to do on your own sometimes. And so if you’re struggling with this, it’s a good idea to bring in a marriage counselor or somebody to help with this. But with money, right, oftentimes one spouse is making more, one spouse maybe has more day-to-day control over the financial accounts or logs in more to check frequently. It’s very easy for power imbalances to happen in these conversations. And if that’s true in your family, right,

understand like that’s all okay. It’s okay to make more money or less money than your spouse. It’s okay to be less involved in some of the day-to-day financial management stuff. What’s not okay is not having an equal vote at the table when it comes to making financial decisions, right? You need to make financial decisions as a couple together to make sure that your family’s plan is working for both of you down the road. So I don’t feel like I answered that question about how to resolve conflict but those are all just things to keep in mind.

as we enter the conversation right from there. It’s a lot of things. It’s a lot of the stuff that you mentioned in the introduction that you did to this podcast, focusing on the underlying interests in the conversation rather than the individual positions. Credit card debt, as you mentioned at the top, is one that comes up a lot that causes conflict among couples, right? But the credit card debt itself is the position, right? That you have, right? I’m angry that you have credit card debt or whatever it might be. The position that you have is wanting

your family’s financial security, right? And the credit card debt is just where we’re running into friction with that. And so I think that focusing on those positions that in theory people can come to an easier consensus with, I find, can really help.

Rhoda Sommer (25:31.906)
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah.

money, finances, moneytalk, couples, marriage, financial goals, relationship

Bill Nelson (25:45.956)
separating people from the problem, right? Identifying like what the actual issue is here. The easiest way, I went through a financial conflict resolution course earlier this year and the instructor gave us this exercise to, you know, again, I think this is really hard to do on your own. It’s much easier to with a facilitator, but you know, if you can imagine that you’re in a theater up on a balcony, right? And you’re looking down at the stage and you’re seeing two people have this conversation, like what are you seeing, right? What are each of the people doing?

what are they not saying, right? As a way to separate yourselves out from the issue to try to understand what’s really going on.

Rhoda Sommer (26:23.618)
Having a little bit, it’s kind of like being the couples therapist. You have that little bit of distance. You’re not invested in one person winning or the other. You’re invested in looking at the two of you and how you’re interacting and how to make things work better. So yeah, I like the theater analogy too. What are some red flags or warning signs that a couple may be experiencing unhealthy financial dynamics? And what steps can they take to address these issues, besides what you’ve already shared?

Bill Nelson (26:55.38)
No, sure, sure. Well, I’ll give you three red flags that I find are the most common ones that pop up. And kind of going from least severe to most severe, if you will. First and foremost are financial boundary issues. Whether it’s between you as a couple, whether it’s between you and your extended family or your in-laws, whether it’s between you and your kids. What?

What financial boundaries do we have in place about how we are having financial conversations with each other, right? Do you have extended family members who are relying on you for financial support in a way that may or may not be appropriate given your financial situation? Do your in-laws or do your parents wanna have a little bit more hands-on management in your day-to-day financial decisions than might be warranted as a married couple living in a separate place? Are you involving kids in financial conversations

and the more extreme end, like, are you trying to use your kids to manipulate your spouse when it comes to money? I’ve seen that before too. Right? Any sort of financial boundary issues like that, to me, are ones where we want to pause and immediately try to get to the bottom of what’s happening and get clear on what those boundaries should be. Whether they just don’t exist at all, whether they’re too rigid, whether they’re not in the right place, right? That’s one important thing to look for. The other, the second one is actually probably the most common one that I see.

And that is what we call in the industry financial infidelity, right? The act of keeping financial secrets from your spouse.

Rhoda Sommer (28:28.326)
I’m amazed at how many people do that, yeah.

Bill Nelson (28:30.64)
Yeah, it’s really interesting. Right. There was a survey done. I can’t remember the school off the top of my head that did it a few years ago. And they found that 27 percent of people admitted to keeping financial secrets from their spouse. But when they actually surveyed individual secretive behavior, 53 percent of people admitted to behaviors associated with financial secrecy. So, a like it’s a 50-50 shot. Right. Whether that’s happening in your own life and maybe more scarily

only half the people who are committing like these acts of financial secrecy recognized it was a problem.

Rhoda Sommer (29:06.894)
Oh, I bet that’s true. Yes.

Bill Nelson (29:08.392)
Yeah, which is really fascinating. And it can vary in forms, right, from keeping secret credit cards or, you know, trying to hide access so you can’t see what spending is like, hiding income or assets or bonuses, giving money to your other members of your family without your spouse being aware. Gambling is a common one, certainly. Right. There’s a lot of different ways that this can manifest. And, you know, we call it financial infidelity. I’m not I’m not an expert in this, but my my.

from what I have read, right, it often triggers the same sort of emotional response that other forms of infidelity would.

in a relationship and so obviously that’s something we want to try to get ahead of and have a good plan in place for how to communicate about that so that we can move forward with that sense of trustworthiness that we had. So can about earlier and then a third and to me most severe case of like a red flag type issue we’re looking for is financial abuse right or financial control taking money preventing the other spouse from like looking for work or getting to their job.

really like, you know, being pretty aggressive with how we’re controlling spending decisions and who has access to what money, right? The statistics on that are really bad in terms of, like, you know, if there’s financial abuse going on, often there’s other forms of abuse going on as well. And so for that one, like, I don’t handle that myself at all. That’s a case where we need to seek help from somebody who specializes in that.

Rhoda Sommer (30:36.738)
And that’s a level of manipulation that is more extreme than ordinary things that you had been discussing previously. Yeah.

Bill Nelson (30:43.34)
Correct.

Bill Nelson (30:47.784)
It’s not great to turn to your spouse and say like, I can’t believe Amazon came to the house four times this week. What were you thinking? It’s another thing to cut off access from Amazon to make Amazon purchases. That’s the difference there.

Rhoda Sommer (31:02.846)
Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. What advice do you have for my audience about developing a budget, the B word, and to buy into the idea that it can be a good thing? And how do you budget without micromanaging?

Bill Nelson (31:19.4)
Love this one. Love this question. Love this question. I have found in my years as a financial planner, I’ve tried every budgeting software that I have ever found and I don’t really like any of them to be honest. I think sometimes like we can often just gravitate toward the tech side of things and financial technology in many ways has made lives better for people. I’m not convinced that for budgeting it necessarily is. Cause at the end of the day, like I don’t really care how much you spend at coffee shops.

this month, right? If you have a budget of $20 a month at coffee shops and you spend $23 this month, that is not a sign that you’re irresponsible and you should probably just give up budgeting altogether, right? Like I find that budgeting at the transaction level like that can cause more money fights than are even warranted, frankly. Instead, what I recommend that couples do is come up with bottom line savings targets.

Rhoda Sommer (32:06.802)
Yeah, I was thinking it could make things worse, yeah.

Bill Nelson (32:15.88)
for your family on a monthly basis. And I often will count debt payments, by the way, as part of savings, because it’s money that we’re using to build your net worth, right? We want to pay $1,000 a month together into our savings account or pay it down on our debt, right? Have come up with that number, right, for your family. And ideally, we’re basing it on some of the goals that you have. If you want to have…

money saved up for a down payment for a house in 12 months, right? You calculate how much you need, divide it by 12, and ideally we’re setting that amount aside per month. If that number isn’t reasonable or isn’t attainable for you, then we might need to look at the goal itself and make some tweaks there, right? But the idea is that we’re deciding together how much money we are going to save, and then we are tracking that number and only that number going forward. It gives you one

Bill Nelson (33:10.394)
this right frankly so if you set that savings target and you save half of that in the first month again keep going just work Work on it iterate it if you like the only time I go into transaction level type details With clients of mine is when they just they can’t figure out why they’re not saving as much as they think that they can

And so that that’s an important piece there. But having that focusing on savings, first of all, rather than spending is a is a really good glass half full way to look at it. It can make the tone of the conversations a little bit more optimistic. It ties them to those future goals a little bit more. The end of the day, it’s the same thing, right? After your money gets put in your bank account and either get saved or spent right where we’re focusing on the same thing, but in a little bit of a different way and something that’s just very clear to measure over time.

Rhoda Sommer (33:58.922)
Yeah, I like that. So debt can be a significant stressor in a relationship. How do you get couples to handle existing and future debt as a team, especially if one person doesn’t want to face it?

Bill Nelson (34:14.516)
Yeah, this is the hardest one. Definitely, definitely. And you made a difference between existing and future debt, and I love that difference because the future debt piece is a little bit easier oftentimes, right? We agree, like what role do we want debt to have in our family going forward, right? Is debt a tool that we use to accomplish particular goals? Is debt something that freaks us out and we want to avoid at any costs, right? Agreeing on that stuff going forward is usually a pretty easy.

conversation to have. Where it gets tough is it with one or both people come into the marriage with a lot of debt or one person has wrapped up debt on the side in ways that we weren’t communicating about in real time as we’ve discussed before. It’s really tough, that’s a really tough one to handle because to a certain degree you talked about kind of being the adult and kind of facing things head-on in the intro, I find there’s a little bit of that involved as well.

from two different angles, right? From the angle of the person who doesn’t have as much debt or doesn’t have any debt, it’s very easy to say, and I know this because I’ve heard it, I don’t even know how many dozens of times at this point, well, it’s not my debt, it’s his debt, it’s her debt. 100%, it happens all the time and it’s understandable to a degree. Here’s the analogy, you said you like my analogy, so I’m gonna give you another one.

If you married somebody with a heart condition, just as an example, you can throw your hands up in the air all you want and say, well, it’s not my heart, it’s not my body, it’s not my problem. And that might be true today, right? That might be true tomorrow, but you can reasonably expect that your spouse’s heart condition is going to affect your life.

in some way, right? Whether it’s health complications as they get older, whether it’s like the types of physical activities or vacations or trips you can do now, right? Whether it’s just the financial costs associated with it. Like the underlying reality is…

your situation like that’s going to affect your life. There’s just no, there’s no getting around that. You can then decide how you want to respond to that. And I’ve never had this conversation with a couple and they’ve said, oh no, I actually would look at my spouse and say, well, it’s not my heart, it’s not my problem. Right? In that context, it’s pretty clear.

But debt’s the same way, right? You can decide you don’t want to help your spouse make payments on their debts. That is a choice that you can make, but understand that that’s going to affect your life down the road, right? When you’re saving for retirement and you’re able to retire at 55 because you’ve done such a good job saving and your spouse is nowhere near retirement because you haven’t been willing to work together on that, like that’s gonna affect your life down the road.

Rhoda Sommer (37:04.415)
Yeah, that’s right.

Bill Nelson (37:05.504)
but you get to decide how to respond. So that’s the tough love I have for the spouse without the debt. Frankly, the more common problem that I see actually is on the spouse with the debt, just guilt and feeling afraid to ask for help, shame. And I’ve had cases where that’s just held couples back. The feelings associated with that were so severe that they weren’t willing to ask for help from their spouse. They wanted to handle it on their own.

Rhoda Sommer (37:17.182)
Mm-hmm. Oh, shame.

Bill Nelson (37:35.518)
held their family back from the optimal financial outcomes. And so in that case, and frankly for both of these cases, again, we’re looking forward. What has happened in the past, has happened in the past, it’s the reality. Wherever we’ve ended up in the car is the reality you’re starting with today. You can decide how you want to drive forward. If you have made some financial decisions that you’re not proud of in the past, that if you’ve racked up this debt or you just haven’t, or student loans are a case

where it’s not necessarily a responsibility, right? That got us to this point, but, you know, we maybe haven’t as handled it as proactively as we should have to get to this point. Like you get to decide going forward how to change that. And so I think the degree to which you can focus on that future attitude, right? If you’re committed to fixing the problem and getting rid of it, then there’s nothing wrong with asking your spouse for help. If your spouse has a ton of debt and it’s very clear, they’re committed to fixing it down the road, right? There’s nothing wrong with helping them along the way.

Rhoda Sommer (38:26.667)
Yeah, that’s right.

Rhoda Sommer (38:35.182)
I would agree, absolutely. So, how can couples strike a balance between enjoying their present financial resources and planning for a secure future? What advice do you have for achieving this balance? I love balance. I just always think that’s the core of wisdom is two things, and so I really wanted to ask that.

Bill Nelson (39:00.228)
I love it. And my suggestion there is first and foremost, both are important. Right. You know, you using money today, there is such a thing as saving too much money. I’ve seen it. I have those conversations sometimes. Right. Using your money today or even just keeping money in cash for things today. Like I often find this dynamic between like what what’s what we’re doing in the short term versus long term when it comes to investing decisions as well.

Because that is another really common difference that couples have, is one person’s much more inclined to want to make their money work for them and kind of build wealth over time. And the other likes to see the number of the bank account be a nice number. Right. Both of them both are important. Right. What we’re doing today with your money to maximize the short term financial objectives for your family, whether it’s some sort of short term savings goal, having an emergency fund or just living your lives the way you want to live them right now. And long term.

saving, right? But both of them are important, but you want to work on them in the right order. Right? I think it is most important in the short term to make sure you have a really good financial foundation built for your family, that you’re spending money in a way that is sustainable for you over time. But you also want to make sure we’re building the tower upwards, right? Once we have that financial foundation built in place.

Rhoda Sommer (40:21.111)
To enhance financial teamwork, what are effective ways to divide financial responsibilities and manage joint accounts, establishing clear roles and responsibilities that ensures both partners contribute to their financial well-being?

Bill Nelson (40:37.596)
Yeah, it’s a great, that’s a great one. A few different lenses to look at that question with. First and foremost is with like the money you each are actually bringing to the table.

If both spouses are working, right? And making sure that regardless of who makes what money and what the incomes are like, everybody should be contributing to something for your family. I’ve seen cases where one spouse kind of provides all the day-to-day spending money and the other spouse does all the long-term saving. I’ve seen cases where one spouse pays the mortgage and the other spouse pays X, Y, Z things. Like it, if you’re combining all your accounts and managing money together, right?

it’s not as easy to track that, but you want to make sure that both people feel like they are contributing to the financial well-being of their family. And of course, if you’re a stay-at-home parent, that’s a huge financial contribution because as somebody with a two-year-old, I can tell you that kids without a stay-at-home parent are expensive. Kids are expensive anyway, but daycare is worth something, right? Taking care of the houses

in managing the accounts. Again, I think I mentioned this earlier, it’s completely normal for one person to be willing dash interested in doing most of that, or even all of that. I’m okay, I’m completely okay with that. Like I think that’s a really normal financial difference for couples to have. I’m not big on like forcing one spouse to log into the account sex number of times per month to do whatever. But if you have that sort of financial arrangement in your family, or one’s birth,

where one person is doing most of the legwork. You need to make sure first and foremost that the other spouse knows where everything is and can get into everything. If something were to ever happen to you, like you could actually like, they could pick up what you’re doing. They also need to just be aware of what’s going on as well. Like, you know, you want both people to understand the state of your financial household, if you will. And again, I know I mentioned this before, right? There’s a difference between delegating financial tasks, moving money from here to there, paying the credit cards, paying the bills, whatever it is, and making financial decisions. You cannot delegate making financial decisions for your family. You both need to do that together. Oftentimes, I find that the best way to get into a good rhythm with this is to sit down once a month, 10 to 20 minutes at most, right?

always I always like to be in those conversations with what’s going well financially for you because Whenever I had a case where I’ll never forget this I had a client who? Their their income was really high but their student loan debt was really high as well and they paid off a couple hundred thousand dollars of student loans and I got the email and Saying that they paid the last balance. It was great We had a meeting a month or so later and they came to this meeting and I said so how’s it going? I’m like accepting expecting to party a little bit that they had

Rhoda Sommer (43:15.744)
Yes.

Bill Nelson (43:41.466)
rid of this huge student loan burden and they immediately went to it like well we’re really worried about this tax thing and I said okay we’ll talk about that we’ll fix that first and foremost though we’re going to take a step back and talk about the good thing that happened right we never we never take the time to celebrate what’s going well financially and just doing taking a second to do that I find can really help make these conversations easier because

Bill Nelson (44:11.246)
If you really sit down and think about it for a few minutes, you can come up with a good list of things that are going well for you. It’s the way our brains are hardwired is we don’t tend to focus on it unless we intentionally choose to do so.

Rhoda Sommer (44:24.114)
It’s kind of like the parents that tell the neighbors good things about their kids, but don’t tell the kids.

Bill Nelson (44:28.58)
Yes, exactly. That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And then from there, right, once a month, how did we do last month? Like I said, we’re not tracking individual spending transactions unless we have no idea where our money is going. Instead, we’re tracking the bottom line savings target and or how much we want to pay down our debt. If we had a goal to save $1,000 last month, how did we do? Do we hit that goal?

So then that’s great. Add that to the, what’s going well column. If not, right, why is it, right? Did something unexpected come up? Is our, were our budget targets just completely off and we need to reset expectations?

in understanding that and then from there, just then taking that information and setting goals for the month ahead, right? Last month we saved a thousand dollars, this month, we have three paychecks coming in rather than two just because of the way the calendar falls. So our savings targets gonna be a little bit higher this month, right? That kind of thing.

Rhoda Sommer (45:26.306)
So, my final question, what would you like to add that we may have overlooked?

Bill Nelson (45:32.54)
Oh boy. We covered a lot of ground here, which is great. Again, I think that I mentioned it in passing, right? But my the reason why I like to talk about this stuff is because A, nobody really talks about money and marriages and B, Whenever we do, whenever we see data, it’s always negative. It’s always emphasizing the dangers of not being on the same financial page and like how hard it can be to get on the same financial page. But what I’ve seen from, I don’t even know how many couples at this point is when you’re able to get on that same financial page, it just makes your marriage that much stronger.

Rhoda Sommer (46:12.126)
Yeah, I completely agree. Bill, would you please share your website in the name of your book?

Bill Nelson (46:18.172)
Absolutely, yeah. So my website’s paysetterplanning.com. My book that I published last year is Marriage-Centered Money, Get on the Same Financial Page and Achieve Your Life Goals Together. That’s Marriage-Centered Money. It’s the exact opposite of Money-Centered Marriage. That’s the way I like to describe that to people. And in marriagecenteredmoney.com, you can get the book there as well.

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