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Stop Rowing in Circles

Working together will help keep your financial boat afloat (and save you a lot of stress!).

Monkey Business/Thinkstock

When it comes to finances, picture each household as a boat. If you're on your own, you'll need to pull your own weight to get to where you want to go. If you have a family to support, your journey can be easier or much, much harder depending on whether or not your oarsmen are rowing together.

Take hypothetical couple Tanya and Terrance as an example. Terrance, a notorious spendthrift, studies advertising circulars and berates Tanya for paying $.50 more than necessary for soap. "But I would have had to go to two stores to get that discount!" Tanya protests, frustrated.

Even in relationships where couples are basically on the same financial page, differences in priorities (she wants to send the kids to private school; her partner wants to save for college) can set the boat spinning in circles. To move the boat forward, the partners must learn to communicate and row together.

Terrance and Tanya swapped lists of financial priorities, putting check marks next to items they agreed upon and question marks next to items for compromise. They both agreed that retirement savings was key, while Tanya acknowledged areas where she could cut costs and Terrance agreed that an annual vacation was worth the expense. Pretty soon, their little boat was moving swiftly toward a unified financial future, and they were ready to make a budget they could both live with. We'll talk about how budgeting lowers financial stress next.

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