Ben Hoogland, owner of Twin Cities Marriage and Family Therapy, has advice for couples navigating the touchy topic of money.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — With the holiday season approaching and inflation at a record high, money can be an ever-increasing source of stress for families and couples. Ben Hoogland, a therapist and owner of Twin Cities Marriage & Family Therapy, shares five tips on how to navigate finances together smoothly and avoid arguments.
1. Be honest about your individual finances
Hoogland says the first step is being honest with yourself before you can be honest with a partner.
“If we can’t get honest with ourselves about how we handle money, or how we view money, it’s hard to get honest about the situation within the relationship,” Hoogland said. “A lot of times, we tend to get mad at the other person about what they’re doing with money in a way to try to distract ourselves from how we’re actually feeling about it.”
Hoogland says it’s important to figure out what you value, and share it with your partner. And if you have any debt or financial issues, put it out in the open. Keeping things hidden can only lead to bigger problems.
2. Be clear about your values toward money and the relationship
Hoogland says many people might only look at finances as number crunching, but there’s a whole emotional element that’s separate, yet intertwined. He says before you can get on the same page with your partner about the numbers, it’s important to unpack each person’s feelings about money.
He encourages people to examine the following questions: “What role does money play in your life? Is it something that you save? Is it something that you spend every chance you get? Does it cause you a lot of anxiety? Does it cause you to feel hopeful?”
The answers will help you develop a foundation and common understanding of where you’re each coming from and where you want to go.
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3. Discuss your relationship’s roles when it comes to money
Hoogland says it’s not uncommon for one person in a partnership to assume the role of financial manager, whether or not that’s ever discussed aloud. That in itself isn’t problematic, he says.
“It only becomes an issue when somebody spends money on something they don’t agree with, or they want something or they start talking about some big project or expense down the road, or when they want to retire,” Hoogland said. “Then it tends to then carry a lot of emotion and cause conflict and arguments.”
He suggests couples even try having a set weekly or monthly “business meeting” to discuss finances.
“Sit down for a half hour an hour and just go over, ‘Here’s where we are, here’s what we need to focus on,'” he said. “And maybe a little bit of dreaming about where they want to go on vacation, or what they want to invest into in the future. So rather than just the monotony of the day in and day out, there’s also the envisionment of where their future can be, too.”
Hoogland says the process of establishing a budget will help you figure out what each other’s priorities are.
“A lot of people go through life, [saying] ‘I’m gonna buy it without really having any context of what that means to the family, to the relationship, or to the checking account,'” Hoogland said. “So knowing where you’re at and what you need to spend money on helps you set priorities and then have some level of accountability.”
5. Figure out what’s best for you
There’s a lot of financial advice out there, on whether or not to invest together, establish separate or joint accounts, etc. Ultimately, Hoogland says, only you can determine what’s best for you as a couple.
“In the end, go with what you feel like is important, not what you think other people feel like is important,” he said.
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