Many of us have heard this at one time or another:
"More money, more problems."
"Money just complicates things."
You may be saying to yourself, "Well...yeah. Money is what determines my food, clothing, shelter, and quality of life." It's fascinating, though, to think that one specific component of a relationship can completely interfere with 'til death do us part. I've seen it first hand how money can affect trust in a family. How it can inadequately replace acts of appreciation. How it can tear apart relationships.
So does more money mean more problems?
Harvard Psychologist Dr. Daniel Gilbert, in his work "Stumbling on Happiness," reported research conducted regarding money and its associations to happiness. The findings indicated that money does buy happiness - to an extent. At some point, though, cited between $40-70,000 a year salary, an increase in money means a lesser and lesser positive effect on happiness. This is not to say that you're wrong if you're focusing on making more than $70,000 a year. Goals are great to have. Problem is, more often than not, people don't take this decline of impact on happiness into account. There's a hyperfocus on making money that ignores the sacrifices. This may come in the form of overworked individuals that neglect their self-care in the process (sleep, exercise, sobriety, nutrition, stress-reducing activities), or a preoccupation with saving/earning despite having already achieved a comfortable lifestyle.
Money is a sensitive subject. But even the most sensitive topics are approachable when engaged with delicacy. If you or your partner are experiencing tension regarding your present or future financial state, here are a few tips:
- Be transparent. I've seen healthy couples handle money in all sorts of ways, but it's important to be up-front and honest about your expectations and desired lifestyle
- Be realistic. Take a practical approach to what the both of you spend and make. If you anticipate an already expensive year, don't put too much of a burden by running your credit card up with vacations and luxuries.
- Have a shared vision. Construct the blueprint for a lifestyle that takes the both of you into account - your work week, how many hours a week spent, groceries, living arrangements, debt management, luxuries, health, vacations, career advancements, family planning, retirement, etc.
- Respect each other's vision. It's an anxiety-inducing topic. Many perceive their capacity to earn or provide as a measurement in self-value. Treat each other's vision with honesty, patience, and kindness.
- Build a plan you can both stick to.
- Talk regularly. At least once every fiscal quarter. Evaluate your budget. Any surprises? Are you still on course? Any issues? Anything you would like to add to the planning? It doesn't have to be a stern and cold few hours talking about money. Order some pizza. Light some candles. Make a date out of it.
- Don't talk about it too much. Set aside some time every once in a while depending on the condition of your financial stability. Some couples fall into the trap of this idea that the more they talk about it, the better situation they'll be in. But just like the money/happiness relationship, there's a diminishing return and can, at some point, generate some unnecessary anxiety.
- Consult with a financial advisor. I can't stress this enough. It's worth the investment, especially if you have significant anxiety about your future. If you can afford it, you don't have to do this alone. Set some money aside so that you can get financial direction from someone who is well-educated in developing long-term plans.
These are just some tips that I've found to be helpful, but there's a lot of great information online. Questions? Comments? Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!