Navigating Financial Inequality

Could you get the check?  This fairly innocent question can be the tipping point (pun intended) in many loving relationships. Why? Because talking about money is uncomfortable; so often, we just don’t. Money can make us feel powerful, emasculated, and intimidated all at once. In the words of the old Kanye,Having Money Isn’t Everything, Not Having It Is”. It’s no wonder many of us would rather tiptoe around our partners and risk tipping our toes into a pool of resentment, rather than facing the subject head-on.

Making more money than your spouse can create a whole host of complications. It’s no secret that the income gap amongst spouses has proven to be a huge source of conflict. The only way of resolving the issue is by taking control.

Set Your Own Financial Goals

Knowing what we want our lives to look like in the future, individually will help steer us in the right direction. Let’s be honest with ourselves and begin to set S.M.A.R.T goals. Do we want to invest? Do we want to own a house by 40 and a bigger one by 50? We should have a firm idea of what we want before bringing our ideas to our partnership.

Monitor Our Own Financial Health

Combining finances can be stressful. Many of us couldn’t pick our credit scores out in a line-up, if you paid us to. Here are a few ways that we can be sure to hold up our end of the bargain before we couple up:

  • Sign up for Credit Monitoring
    There are a number of companies, worldwide that represent every credit bureau. Once or twice a month, we can take a look at, not only our credit score but also our credit report. This means that we will be able to see what we are doing right, and what we need to improve on. Good credit will play a role early in our relationship whether it involves renting a car, or purchasing that dream apartment.

  • Set Up An Investment Account With Automatic Contributions
    Life seems to always get in the way of saving money. There are always those unexpected expenses that come out of nowhere. Having a fixed amount of money transferred from our checking accounts to our investment accounts bi-weekly will take the temptation to spend, out of our hands. By contributing a fixed percentage of income every month, our savings will start to add up before we know it!

It is important that we choose a contribution amount that we can easily afford, so that we don’t feel enticed to dip into our investment fund for basic daily expenses.

Talking about money with your partner

Financial inequality can be a large source of tension in any relationship. Feeling as though our partner is an obstacle to us achieving our goals, can open the door to a flood of resentment. Although potentially uncomfortable, discussing finances early on in a relationship is essential for a healthy financial future. We have to make sure we see ourselves aiming for a similar lifestyle as them. We can then design a course to get there; afterall, living off the land in Costa Rica, and buying a 3 story brownstone in Manhattan require very different strategies. Being transparent about our financial health with our partner will hold us accountable and push us toward financial growth.

Splitting Expenses: Fair But Not Equal

It is highly unlikely that we will make the same amount of money as our partners, at any given time. We all progress at our pace, as life presents us with different opportunities at different times. A thousand dollars towards a sofa for one partner could mean falling into debt, while for the other, it could simply represent a small expense. Scaling back your expenses relative to your respective incomes is a great, short term tool, to help maintain financial health. This plan should be revisited often and adjusted, as the situation changes, so as to keep things fair.

Investing In Each Other

Whether one partner is finishing law school or is on their third audition of the day; many incredibly smart and ambitious people are not able to contribute monetarily in the way that they would like, at a given time. This does not mean that a person’s financial success is not imminent. It may simply imply that they are not, yet at a place where they can fulfill their financial potential. If we are committed to each other emotionally, investing in our partner’s personal and professional growth will only serve to strengthen our future as a couple.