Every individual has a financial history. Just like every individual has a relationship history, sexual history, and family history. How we approach finances today is influenced by our past experiences and family history. So, when we enter a relationship and we begin to merge our finances with our partner, we are also merging years of engrained saving/spending habits, family messages about money, and an established relationship around finances (positive or negative). A couples’ financial history is a very important area to consider because depending on your own financial history and your financial habits, you and your partner may have different views on financial priorities and overall different financial expectations. If both of you are willing to compromise and negotiate certain expectations and spending habits, it is possible to develop a new relationship with finances as a couple. Exploring your partner’s and your own financial history in depth will help resolve fights faster because you will be more likely to understand the other persons financial approach and grasp why certain issues are so important to them. This deeper understanding will help you diffuse potential, future financial conflicts because you will be able to speak your partner’s language. Our belief is that once each of you feels heard, understood, and valued, the solution to each situation will emerge.
Important areas to consider :
1) The history of your family’s relationship with money
How did your parents handle money? Who paid the bills? Who was in charge of budgeting? Who made the major financial decisions (whether or not to afford vacation, or purchase a new car, spend on education, etc). Did anyone avoid bills or big decisions on money?
What were your parents’ spending patterns like? Did either of them tend to spend when they were happy? Angry? Did they budget their spending? Did your parents have similar spending styles? Did this ever cause conflict between them?
Which approach do you identify with now? Are you more like your mom when it comes to money, or more like your dad, or a combination of both? Or did you reject both of their approaches to money and develop an opposite approach? How do you think the history of your parent’s relationship with money impacted (positive or negative) your relationship with money today?
2) The history of your family’s financial status
What was money like growing up? Did it grow on trees? Was it ever discussed where their money came from? (I.e., hard work, or trust fund, a legal settlement, etc.) Were you a penny pincher family? Were you a “charge it” family? How did your family’s status affect your affording the necessities? How did your family’s status effect affording non-necessities? Based on your family’s financial status, what promises did you make to yourself regarding money? What do you wish for yourself? What do you expect for yourself? What does your family expect of you financially? What are the expectations for your partner’s financial status (from you and your family)?
3) The history of your family’s Communication around finances
Was money a source of conflict for your parents? Did your parents ever talk about money that you’re aware of? Did they ever talk about it in front of you and siblings? Did they ever fight about money? Did you ever see your parents walk away from fights/talks about money with a resolution? Or did it always end in unresolved arguments? If your parents did argue about money, was it always the same issue or something new each time?
What messages did you receive about money? Which ones do you think are healthy? Which ones do you disagree with and avoid?
Was money and family finances openly discussed? As in, the status of family finances, or how your parents made certain things affordable? Who do you replicate your family’s patterns around communication and money?
4) Lessons around money
What memories do you have around your learning about certain financial processes? Did your parents let you hand money to the cashier? Did they have a change jar in the house that you were allowed to count? Did you have allowance? When did you begin paying for your own clothes? If you needed or wanted money, how were you encouraged to get it? How were you encouraged to ask for it? How do recall getting money?
Did your parents walk you through signing up for your first bank account? Did they help you buy your first stocks? How did they teach you about saving money, or investing money? Did they teach you the steps for college loans or how to lease a car, or did they do it for you? If they didn’t show you the way, how did you learn? Who helped you gain the financial knowledge you do have? What gaps in financial knowledge, if any do you think you have? Growing up, did you talk with friends about money? What memories stand out to you about finances? How do the outcomes of these memories impact your approach to money today? Which lessons around money do you continue to believe? Which ones have you decided to do things differently?
5) Messages around money
Do you remember any common sayings/mantras used by either parent that they lived by? For example, “Money makes money?” Or, “The best things in life are free,” or “You can’t take it with you when you’re gone.” Did either parent tend to practice any of these regularly? Is this something you think you go by today, or no? Were you encouraged to marry a wealthy person? Or have wealthy friends? Did your parents even care about money? What did you see when you observed your parents spending and what messages did you received from your observations? For example, is it okay to negotiate for a bargain? Should you always ask for coupons? Or do your research first before any purchase? Or do you just trust the employee and take what you can get, no questions asked? Who, if anyone should be trusted with money? Are pre-nuptial agreements important in marriages? Should children be given trust funds? Are children benefited by having access to money? Should kids go to private or public schools? Who should pay for college? A wedding? At what age do children stop taking money from their parents? At what point should children pay for their parents? If you have a sibling with special needs, who is obligated to help secure his or her financial future? If your parents needed your financial help are you obligated to share your wealth? If you are wealthy do you have an obligation to give back to society? If so, how much? Do you live to work or work to live?
6) History of major financial decisions
Were there any significant financial decisions that your parents made that impacted you long-term? Such as, having to pay off their credit card debt as an adult, or your parents made investments business purchases in your name and your credit is now affected, or your parents shared their earnings of successful investments with you, etc.
7) Money and Trust.
In what ways do you trust other people with money? In what ways do you trust your parent’s financial decision making process? What are healthy types of trust and unhealthy types? How involved do you want to be with the financial aspects of your marriage?
8) Your Marriage.
In what ways do you imagine you and your spouse share similar financial views? What are the differences? Do any of these similarities or differences create challenges in handling your finances as a couple? How do some of these similarities or differences create a stronger financial future for you as a couple?
Again, these questions are just a few of the many questions to be explored around money and your family of origin. These questions are designed to simply get your wheels turning at the idea that your current financial patterns go deeper and go way back into your family of origin. These questions will help you make some connections and give you insight on why you handle and respond to money the way that you do, as well as your partner. Understanding where each of you are coming from will help you assess the situation more accurately as well as develop a game plan for moving forward. By understanding your past, you have the opportunity to question and potentially change your financial habits and assumptions so that you can be better fit for today’s financial demands.