by Judy M McCutcheon MBA
I’ve never liked games, maybe if I did, I would be more active and my waistline a little less expanded; but it just seems that relationships these days are more complicated than ever. There appears to be all this game playing to get each other’s attention.
While I think mystery is good and keep things exciting, I don’t like the games people play in relationships. This includes the games people play with money, whether it be using it as a tool to keep someone or squandering it to impress others.
When I was growing up marriages lasted forever, and people generally stayed in relationships for a long time. Whether they were happy or not is a different story, that’s a topic for another article – coming soon. If you are in a serious relationship, then I am sure there are a few things you know about your partner such as their likes and dislikes. You might even know something about their dreams and aspirations, but do you know about their debt situation? Even if you are married, do you really know the extent of your partner’s debt? I am not only talking about bank loans, and heaven forbid, loans from payday companies who burst onto the scene recently with people regularly borrowing to buy things they didn’t even know they needed.
The prospect of marriage or living together is so exciting for some of us, that we forget to look at the very issues that would help to keep our union intact. We don’t want to start the money conversation early for fear that we might scare the other person away. Folks, talking money could be very sexy (who am I kidding), especially if it leads to a strong happy union. Not knowing your partner’s debt situation can come back to bite you in the proverbial butt, so it is important that you have this discussion prior to jumping in. When you enter into a relationship you bring all your baggage with you, emotional as well as financial. These days graduates are leaving school with hefty student loans, coupled this with bad spending habits – and you have a prime recipe for a bad debt situation and a cantankerous union.
It is important that you have a financial conversation before you consummate a relationship and on a consistent basis after, keeping in mind that the honeymoon does come to an end. Good communication about money matters will solve many ills, as money does play a huge role in your union. Do not be afraid to have that money talk with our significant other. You must learn to harness the positive power of money, remembering that you can be significantly impacted by your partner’s debt problems. While we do not have official credit scores and credit rating to go by in Grenada, financial institutions do check on your financial history and a negative financial report can severely impede your progress. While we all make financial mistakes at some point or the other in our lives, it is crucial that you have open and honest dialogue with each other.
Some things to consider as you plan your journey together:
Dream together – It is important that your goals are in sync. Don’t be afraid to dream. Decide how you want your life to be and then take steps to start fulfilling those dreams. Create short, medium and long-term financial goals that will help you achieve your plan for your life, and create a spending plan to match. Remember to celebrate your successes along the way.
Build together – You must take steps to build for your future, it’s your job and your job alone to provide for yourselves financially. Start from where you are to build a financially sound future based on your goals and dreams. Lotteries and bingos are very compelling distractions despite the slim odds of winning as we entertain thoughts of being rescued financially. This should not be part of the plan.
Commit to each other financially – We don’t like losing stuff, and we frame savings as a loss because it is not available for us to spend and of course we say to ourselves, we will save when we get a pay raise. And just like starting an exercise regime which we know is good for us, we put it off until next week and next week never comes, it’s the same thing we do with our savings. Make a commitment now, that your older selves deserve a portion of your current income and put it in an interest-bearing account or better yet invest it so that it can work for you eventually.
Learn about your money together – The underlying theme in all my articles is about creating a spending plan, budgeting and saving. It is important that as a couple you explore this together, learn about your spending and saving habits. We have all been socialised differently when it comes to money, therefore, it is crucial that you examine your feelings about money and how you treat it.
Understand the risk and rewards – as grown-ups the game of money involves, working, investing, retirement and the stakes are very high in this game. Take the time to understand the potential risks and rewards that are involved in this game, learn about your risk tolerance and then begin to invest, savings alone will not get you very far.
We are all perfectly imperfect. We won’t have all the information we need before making a decision. Make a decision anyway. There is always a possibility of making a mistake when we make financial decisions, but in most financial situations there is a wider range of right decisions than there are wrong ones.
Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company.