“The Talk”: Kids, Religion, Money

Real Life Example: “What do we want from our marriage?”

In full transparency, this example is from my own life. Someone suggested I use it this week.

My wife and I have four natural parents. Those parents logged four divorces among them (my parents were both divorced twice). This makes for children who are wary of marriage. In my case, I wanted to convert this wariness into intention in my own marriage. At the time – around age 30 – I’d often seen marriages break up over one of three things: religion, children, or money. I wanted our marriage to last, so I knew we should talk about these things before we married. But in the case of money, what are some ways to approach that subject?

My wife and I didn’t know how to go about it, we didn’t have any guides or advisors, but we had one advantage: awareness. We both knew deep down that we needed to talk about it, and our awareness of that need led us to an open conversation about money in our lives growing up, our values at the time, and what sorts of values we wanted to carry (or not) into our marriage.

All of us have unconscious beliefs about money, much of which was probably formed in our childhood years. Money might have been an open topic in your home, or perhaps a taboo subject. Your family might have been careless with money, or vigilant and scrupulous. You might have felt you had all you needed, or at least the basics, or you might have felt it was never enough.

I didn’t understand this at the time, but I did know I had some values about money, and the conversation revealed that my wife did also. We both wanted to get out of debt (forever). We had both had struggles with money, albeit different struggles and lessons learned. We both saw cars as primarily functional rather than status symbols or sources of fun. I remember quite vividly talking about whether we wanted to pay for our potential children to go through college – both of us had very strong opinions on this topic based on our families and our own experiences. We decided that day to establish a principle to always live on just one of our incomes. I don’t remember all of the conversation, but I know we’re lucky – we agreed on a lot of things and we set a great foundation for the years ahead.

You don’t need to be on the cusp of marriage to have this conversation, you only need awareness that the conversation is important and a desire to align your money to your shared values. You can start the conversation by asking your partner this simple question: “What was money like in your family growing up?” How did that shape how you think about money today, and is that what you want in your partnership or would you change something?

Let me know if you want follow-on questions for the conversation.

And drop me a line if you have a Real Life Example financial topic you’d like to hear about.

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