Money, Marriage and Divorce sounds a bit gloomy for the New Year, but with January being the most popular time for Australian couples to call it quits, it’s probably the best time for money expert Paul Clithero to release his new book — which, despite its title, is a tool to help keep couples together before they head down the dirty divorce track.
As a kid I remember my parents fighting about two things — money, and money. It’s for exactly that reason Paul put pen to paper in the aim to inspire families to look closely at the household budget and work together to make both the budget and the relationship work. The family that budgets together, stays together. I caught up with Paul to find out if my ‘money personality’ (sunny, witty and spontaneous) was harmonious with my husband’s (gloomy, tight and careful!)
Paul, you have written many books about money, but not relationships. Is there a big correlation?
For about 30 years now I have been watching research about the numbers of people divorcing and money is always one of the key issues mentioned in why the relationship was struggling. I’m no relationship counselor but it made me extremely curious. I did a year or two of talking, mainly to family lawyers and people who have been through the process, looking for research done by people like Relationships Australia, and it is true — money does seem to be one of the big factors inside a relationship and I thought that was really interesting.
So how did you interpret that to help people?
The reason that money is such a difficult issue in a relationship is that we all have different money personalities. For example, I’ve been married to my wife Vicky for 32 odd years, and we knew from day one that we have quite different money personalities. I tend to be more aggressive with money and Vicky tends to be more conservative. There’s nothing right or wrong with that, it’s just the way we are. We’ve worked pretty hard over time to compromise so that money doesn’t become an issue inside our relationship. However, money is generally a taboo subject inside a relationship. So whether you’re a spender or a saver, good or bad with money, it needs to be discussed early on and then often, or it is guaranteed to cause you problems.
So what you’re saying is that on your Tinder profile you need to put “am good with money” or “am terrible with money”.
Ha! You could, but that sounds a bit harsh, so maybe go under the radar. For example, I’d rather say, “I like sailing”. Sailing is truly like ripping 100 dollar notes up under the shower. That could allude that I’m bad with money. It just sounds better. But having said that, my wife Vicky might say she doesn’t mind a pair of shoes, but that doesn’t means she’s bad with money.
Well, as a marriage celebrant, I want people to stay married forever. It’s just the romantic in me. So what are your top three tips for managing money in relationships?
Don’t fight your money personality and don’t try to get your partner to change their money personality, it’s not going to happen. So tip one — you will have different money personalities, talk about it.
Tip number two is to have an action plan. Talk about your medium, short term, long term objectives for the stuff you want to do and then realise that unless you’re going to come up with a plan that broadly makes you both happy, you’re likely to end up in divorce. You need an action plan to cope with each other’s money personality, and goals in life in general.
Number three is very simple. If you want to stay in a relationship for a long time this discussion doesn’t just happen once. So for Vicky and myself, 30 years ago we needed to scrape together a deposit to try and buy a house and we wanted to have children. Now that has all happened, the house is paid off and the kids have grown up and left home. As we both turn 60 in the next 12 months, now we’re talking about, should we both slow down work a bit? How much money would we need to do that? If I want to keep sailing and if Vicky wants to keep buying shoes, can we afford it? How are we going to do it?
So here we are some 30 years later and I think one of the reasons we are hanging in there as a pretty effective couple is because we don’t let money be a taboo subject, we do talk about it, and we don’t try to change one another. We just come up with a plan in the middle.
Money, Marriage & Divorce is available now through Penguin Books.