Dear Carrie: My husband and I have been married for less than a year. He comes from a moderately wealthy family and my family was always scrimping for every penny. Ironically, I'm now earning more than he is, but he's still ready to spend. How do we sort out our differences? --A Reader
Dear Reader: The old adage "opposites attract" seems to apply even to attitudes about money, so it's not unusual for couples to have different approaches to their finances. The differences alone aren't necessarily a problem, but how you deal with those differences is important to make sure they don't become one.
The first thing to remember is that you're a team. It doesn't matter who's making the most money. It doesn't matter if one of you is more of a spender and the other a saver. What matters is that you agree on your common financial goals and how you'll work together to achieve them. But agreement only comes through understanding one another's feelings about money, and the only way I know of to do that is to talk.
START THE CONVERSATION
Talking about money isn't always easy, but I'm convinced that it's essential to your long-term financial -- and personal -- happiness.
You might start by looking back over the past year. Compare where you were financially when you first got married to where you are now. Begin with the positives. For instance, maybe you're closer to a goal such as the down payment on a home. Or perhaps you've grown your savings significantly. Give yourselves some credit for what you've accomplished. Talk about the goals you started out with. Have they changed? If so, discuss what's now important to each of you.
Then review how you've been handling your expenses and what you've each been contributing. Do you both feel it's fair or is it time to make some changes?
Looking at the big picture together will give you both a chance to explain your differences -- and also to acknowledge and appreciate your similarities.
CONFRONT THE EMOTIONAL
Now's the time to be open, honest, willing to listen and nonjudgmental. If you didn't discuss your different financial upbringings before you got married, do it now. The money values we're raised with have a way of sticking with us. You may have thought you'd gotten past your parents' attitudes about spending and saving, but it's hard to shake them. Talk it out. You're obviously concerned about your husband's spending habits. He may be equally concerned about your more conservative approach. And realize, too, that your larger salary may make him feel he has less control.
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