Dr. Shirley Glass

"Reflections By Glass"

Marie and Tony both grew up in families who made and lost several fortunes because of extravagant spending and mismanaged business ventures. When Marie and Tony got married, her parents got a second mortgage on their house in order to finance a lavish wedding for 300 guests. Tony's parents were in one of their periodic financial upswings and gave the newlyweds a BMW for a wedding gift. Tony and Marie derived greatly different meanings from their similar family backgrounds. Marie learned to spend for today and never worry about tomorrow. On the other hand, Tony was angered and appalled by his parents' irresponsible lifestyle and was very cautious about finances. Although Tony and Marie were very much in love with each other, their conflicting attitudes about money eventually threatened their marriage. Money fights are one of the most prevalent causes of marital discord. Struggles over money may reflect underlying problems in intimacy, power, or communication.

Disagreements about money often begin as philosophical differences and end up as intense power struggles. The first few years of marriage, Tony and Marie both worked, and they were able to spend freely and still save money to buy a house. When Marie stopped working to stay home with their pre-school aged children, they agreed to scale down their standard of living in order to meet increased expenses and reduced income. However, Marie bought expensive designer clothing for the children without putting aside money for groceries. Tony was so exasperated by their worsening financial situation, he took away her credit cards, put them on a strict budget, and paid all the bills himself. Marie secretly got money from her parents to buy the luxury items she craved. Marie was acting like a rebellious child who was sneaking around to avoid Tony, who had taken on the role of a strict, authoritarian parent.

Decisions about money need to be made jointly by the couple. Tony and Marie were finally able to sit down together with a spreadsheet that listed all of their fixed expenses. For a spender, the word budget is a total turn-off, but Marie did agree to a spending plan when she was faced with the reality of their situation. They learned through trial and error that Marie could not deal with an abstract budget or credit cards. Therefore, Marie received cash each month which she could use for groceries and personal shopping. She learned to shop in discount stores for the children and became very resourceful at making the dollar bills stretch. Tony's anxiety was relieved because the spending was now under control.

Any spending plan must provide for accountability, security, and independence. The joyous spender needs some freedom to spend without always being under the watchful eye of an anxious partner. However, the worried saver needs the security of knowing that their partner is not jeopardizing their credit or financial stability. Some couples have three checking accounts. They use a joint account to pay household bills, and each person has a personal account for discretionary spending which does not have to be accounted for. Couples who are both wage earners may have two separate accounts with each one taking responsibility for specific expenses. A single account can be designated for fixed expenses and discretionary expenses by each partner, but it requires a lot of coordination and partnership in order for both individuals to feel that they have a true partnership. Couples with good will toward each other will use their money differences to strengthen their relationship by growing individually. The spender can learn to enjoy investing and saving, and the saver can learn to enjoy spending money on fun and pleasure.

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© Dr. Shirley Glass