Are you in a love-hate relationship with your finances? Our guide explains how to get back on track.
The keys to a healthy relationship essentially boil down to effort and consistency. As long as you stay true to your goals and never get complacent in your commitments, you’re all-but-destined to have a happy successful relationship.
Wait a second… did you think I was talking about your marriage? Sorry about that; I was actually referring to your relationship with money. Interestingly enough, though, many of the same principles still apply.
So, how would one define–and achieve–a healthy relationship with money? Let’s take some of the most impactful relationship advice out there, and see just how seamlessly it transitions from our personal life to our finances.
Is There Compatibility?
There is a reason that they say opposites attract. But while different goals, values, and interests might make for excitement and attraction, they doesn’t always bode well for relationship success.
It’s important to evaluate whether you and your money are compatible. More specifically, you should analyze whether your money goals are compatible with your income and spending habits. If they’re not, it might be time to make a change.
If you say you want to retire at 35 but are currently overspending on a home, brand new car, and/or exotic vacations, there’s some incompatibility going on. Just because we want our goals and our financial habits to work together doesn’t mean they will; sacrifice is often required.
Sit down and really crunch the numbers. With your current priorities, saving habits, and spending patterns, are you and your money goals really going to be compatible in the end?
Honesty Is Key
This brings us right into our second point: the importance of honesty.
Honesty can mean keeping an accurate tally of your net worth (yes, you do need to include the credit card balance). Personal Capital offers a free financial dashboard you can use to calculate your net worth. You can read more about it in our review.
Honesty can also be taken literally, as in being honest with your significant other about your spending, so you can both work together toward your financial goals.
More than that, though, you need to be honest with yourself if you ever want to have a healthy relationship with money. And just like in our romantic relationships, the honest truth about our own shortcomings is often the most painful to realize.
Where could you cut back in spending each year… each month… each week? Are you overspending or blatantly ignoring your budget, even when you know better? Have you broken financial promises to yourself, such as doubling down on debt repayment or saving a certain percentage of your income? You may not even be aware of any bad financial habits you have. If you’re not already using some sort of personal finance app or tracker, it’s time to start. PocketSmith is an app that can forecast your cash flow so you can see where your money goes and know when it’s time to tighten your budget. This will help you get a big picture look at your finances and pin-point any areas you need to work on.
Read more: PocketSmith Review – Forecasting Your Money
Have these honest conversations with yourself and admit where you’re falling short. Then, use that as an opportunity to improve your financial habits moving forward.
Set Aside Time
Whether you’re dating someone new or have been married for 30 years, designated time with your significant other is important. This time can be used to enjoy a new hobby together, work on strengthening the relationship, or simply relax with good conversation.
Set aside some special time for your money, too. Once a month (or even once a quarter), pencil in a “date night” with your finances. Use that time to re-evaluate your budget, update net worth statements, analyze progress toward specific goals, and even brainstorm ideas for reaching your goals sooner.
Recommended Podcast: How Your Budget and Net Worth Statements Work Together to Build Wealth
This might mean adjusting your monthly spending or making the decision to get a side hustle. Or perhaps it will just reinforce that you’re on the right track, encouraging you to stay the path.
Have Fun Together
All work and no play made Jack a dull boy… and it can certainly dull your financial motivation, too.
Jumping into aggressive savings plans or strict budgets can help you reach your goals faster, sure; unfortunately, it also sets you up for failure.
Financial goals often take years (if not decades) to reach, and the commitment required isn’t always enjoyable. If you never have any fun or let loose, you run the risk of burning out. This might come in the form of a budget-busting shopping spree, or abandoning your goals altogether–a midlife crisis for your portfolio, if you will.
Be sure that you set aside a small amount each month for “fun money,” or save up for an exciting adventure along the way. These motivators don’t have to be large enough that they derail your progress, either, as long as they’re enough to keep you feeling encouraged.
… But Also Plan for the Future
It seems that “treat yo’self” has become the mantra for today’s instant-gratification generation. But while there’s nothing wrong with self care or enjoying life along the way, it’s important to keep the bigger goals in mind.
Just as in your romantic life, it’s important to plan for the future if you want to keep your relationship with money running smoothly. Think ahead to where you want to be in one year, five years, 25 years. Are you working toward a bright future?
Can you see yourself actually meeting your financial goals, from the road you’re currently on? Will your existing relationship with money (in the form of saving and spending habits, for example) make you happy as the years go on? If any of these answers gives you pause, you should re-evaluate your future plans and what needs to change today.
It’s Always a Work In Progress
Just like in a marriage, friendship, or even a relationship with your children, things are always adapting in your relationship with money. There will be many “seasons” in your life, and it’s important to shift your focus as they come.
For instance, your younger years may be spent paying off student loan debt, building a career, and saving for a home, while your middle years could be spent saving aggressively for retirement and paying down the mortgage. As opportunities and careers and family dynamics change, so will your financial priorities. Keep that in mind as the years go on, and take time to adjust accordingly.
It’s interesting to see just how similar our view should be when trying to build a healthy relationship with those around us, compared to building a healthy relationship with money. By utilizing many of the same approaches, we can improve any and every relationship we have … whether it’s with our spouse or a crispy, green Benjamin Franklin.Topics: Money and Life • Personal Finance