How to Navigate Difficult Conversations When Your Views Don’t Align
By Donna Wood, CPA/PFS, CFP®
When you’re in a committed relationship, you’re going to experience disagreements. When those disagreements are about finances, it can be especially uncomfortable because we all have emotional hang ups when it comes to money. Whether one of you is a spender and the other is a saver, or you disagree about where your “extra” money from bonuses or unexpected cash windfalls should go, financial disagreements can lead to tension in your relationship. Luckily, you can move through these difficult conversations with relative ease by following a few simple steps.
1: Don’t Avoid the Conflict
The first step you and your partner or spouse need to take is embracing the fact that these disagreements are going to happen and understand that they spark meaningful conversations about money that are going to bring the two of you closer together. Although you and your partner may not ever agree when it comes to certain financial topics, creating a space where you can discuss your opinions without judgement and with a mind for learning and understanding what the other feels is critical.
2: Find Common Ground
Once you accept that these conversations and disagreements are inevitable, you can move forward to conflict resolution. You don’t have to agree with your spouse or partner about all things money. Of course, it would be more convenient if that was the case, but you’re two individuals with unique world views and experiences that shape your financial views. When you find that your opinions about money differ, it can be helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. Ask yourself these questions:
What are our life goals? How does this financial decision move us toward fulfilling those goals?
Focusing on your goals can help you to find common ground with your partner when it comes to financial decisions.
3: Compromise When You Can
When you can, try to come up with a solution that offers a compromise for both you and your partner. It may not be the ideal solution in either of your minds, but meeting in the middle can help to reduce conflict. Note – meeting in the middle, or deciding on a compromise, should only be done if it:
- Helps to move you toward mutual goals
- Is the best available decision for your finances
For example, if one of you wants to put extra funds toward retirement savings, and the other wants to pay down your mortgage with the same funds, “compromising” to leave the funds sitting, unused, in cash isn’t maximizing your wealth or moving you toward any of your financial goals.
4: Know When to Find a Moderator
Sometimes financial disagreements are too big to conquer alone. In these cases, speaking with a financial planner can help. While these professionals don’t provide couples counseling, your financial planner can assist in guiding you through each financial decision you make, and can provide impartial advice about what decision is in your best interest.
Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) located in Haymarket, is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. For more information, visit WoodSmith Advisors.com.