Financial Services

Take these steps now to avoid or mend a family financial feud

So how do you stop those money arguments at home?

The dreaded spender/saver couple. It is important to try to understand your spouse’s “money personality,” as we all have a unique way we think about money — often shaped by how we were raised as a child. The most critical item for a couple where you have one person who is very frugal and the other who can often be frivolous is to set concrete, unified family financial goals.

This means really sitting down and figuring out the financial priorities you have for the next year, and also what you both want over the next 20 years. Getting on the same page financially will reduce your money arguments. If you can’t do this yourself, find a competent financial advisor to assist you in this process.

You don’t feel like you have any teamwork at home when it comes to money. Is your family motto “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours,” or do you have the philosophy that “What’s ours is ours”?

It may seem strange, but money often creates struggles over power and control, especially when one spouse makes more money than the other, creating the appearance that they should have more “say” over the decision-making in the family.

Full transparency between two partners is the most important part of the process. The moment one spouse opens a hidden bank account for their fun spending, or one spouse has a separate, unannounced credit card that they are secretly racking up each month, you have a real problem coming for your relationship.

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I recommend that you have joint accounts for the joint financial goals and joint expenses and still maintain some level of personal accounts to maintain some financial independence for the personal, fun expenses you have each year.

Nobody wants to be in charge of the money. The reality is that someone has to take control of the family finances and become the family CFO. Whether that is the person that has more interest in running the money or it is the person who is more skilled, one spouse must know what is going on with the day-to-day money.

You really want to set yourself up with some sort of online financial aggregation system so you can have a clean look at your net worth, your budget and your investments. Sit down quarterly with your spouse and review where you are money-wise to make sure spending doesn’t get out of control.

My family has more money than your family. If it isn’t bad enough that you have to deal with your own spouse and kids for money talks, what happens when your in-laws start wielding their money power on your relationship?

While it is nice to get gifts from family members, you need to make sure you absolutely set boundaries and tell your family that there has to be “no strings attached” with any money gifts. For example, your in-laws may agree to pay for a Disney cruise but then want to use it as a negotiating chip to get more time in the future with the grandkids than the other side of the family gets. That’s why it’s important to be very careful about accepting “gifts” — because it can put a great deal of strain on your relationship.


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