Money and Marriage

(Using this time between appointments and meetings to pen my thoughts down on the relationship between money and marriage. Specifically how the third-party — in this case, Money — plays a crucial role in the make-or-break of every relationship, but not in the way I expected.)

While income had an impact on one’s well-being, it was the perceived financial security that leaves a significantly larger impact.

I got to know of a lady who was married to a rather eccentric fellow. No matter how much her ex-husband earned, no matter how grand the vacations they took together were, her anxiety was ever-present and strangely exacerbated whenever more money was spent. It took me a while to realize that it was the spending habits and personal beliefs around money that her ex-husband held on to that triggered her anxiety attacks. Long story short, this marriage didn’t last and ended up in an divorce.

A couple’s relationship with money is indeed much more nuanced than one might think. In many cases, more money doesn’t necessarily lead to more marital peace and contentment. The presence of financial security (or the lack there of) perceived by each partner can make-or-break relationships, and unfortunately it seems these problems only surface two to three years into a marriage. In comparison, successful couples have shown that they were capable of keeping the relationship together by addressing the topic about money as they would about each other’s terrible hygiene habits and morning breath — by talking about it openly and honestly. 

When a couple has shared financial beliefs to serve as a neutral ground for them to retreat to and discuss methods to face the financial problems together, it helps them focus on the problem than rip each other apart. (Marital arguments about money escalate pretty quickly!) When this common ground is lacking, either one or both partners can be easily tempted to take reckless measures (further and unnecessary borrowing) and actions (filing for a divorce).

For couples who’re newly weds or recently married, it would be good to allocate some time to discuss each other’s personal beliefs and internalised assumptions or rules about money. These assumptions and personal beliefs are what subconsciously drives our daily actions and decisions that we make with money from what we buy, how we live, how we save, and how we plan for our financial future. These assumptions and personal beliefs are also unfortunately commonly outside our conscious awareness, and takes a teensy bit more effort to become aware of and to be emotionally detached from, in order to prevent them from dominating our minds and taking control of our decision-making process in times of financial peril. Finding a common ground can be difficult, and most of the time, it’s not something that magically resolves overnight. Take time and effort to sort out the intricate relationship between money and your marriage, as this will help you and your spouse with larger life transitions expected in the future — a bundle of joy (or two!), family business succession planning, and retirement planning.

The Sense of Cents

It can be difficult to accurately imagine and feel what life is going to be like when we retire. Variable factors, risks and associated (possible) returns, and the “what-if’s” tend to make it even more difficult to articulate or express what life in the next decade or two would be like in the most realistic sense. Sometimes, we refuse to grasp the difference between our ideal future and the (often bleak) reality that stands before us. Planning for our financial future can also be overwhelming. Our day-to-day lives consume so much of our time and energy. Taking on the additional burden of planning for a future that’s “so far away” seems quite unnecessary.

So most of us kind of just default to dealing with it later. Or, we make irrational assumptions of what our financial future will look like while we allow our bank accounts to go down on us every day.

How much longer can you wait though? How much risks are you willing to stomach for the potential returns it can realise, if it does at all? From mismanaging our savings in the good times to indulging in materials and experiences that bring instant gratification, we’re reducing our abilities to provide for the rest of our lives, especially in our silver years.

No, it’s not difficult. But it does require some getting used to, especially if you have to stay within a spending budget lower than what you’re currently used to. No, it doesn’t always mean you have to give up your wants and desires. We all want to have our cake and eat it too.

Start with small, baby steps. I like to spend an hour or so of my weekends looking through my expenses for the week and how it falls into my personal budget. A small tweak like that can help you make sense of the money that goes in and out of your accounts on a weekly basis. If anything at all, you’ll gain comfort by understanding the inflow and outflow of your money. Trust me, it helps you start the new week on a good note.

Women Empowerment, Generally Speaking.

Women have increasingly taken upon themselves promising new roles in our society. The stark differences in the views of most women today about work and career pleasantly surprises me each time I speak with a millennial woman about her financial plans and goals. Often career-driven and purpose-driven, these women are embracing new responsibilities, without compromising their innate nurturer / care-taker characteristics that the female species are blessed with. This is not possible without the males in the workforce actively taking part in households and sharing the responsibilities that once belonged solely to women.

As our women flourish in the new age, we also begin to value the importance of independence. This sense of independence boosts esteem, and it is one of the driving factors that has shaped how we look at our roles and responsibilities today. To achieve such independence requires thoughtful planning and execution, and although a lot of us take pride in our innate capabilities to multitask efficiently while balancing sound personal and household finances, humans are also prone to being blind-sided and biased.

One of the observations I’ve made when working on the financial plans with women of all walks of life are is the misconception that there is a one-sized-fits-all financial and empowerment plan for women.

As the female species, our thought processes and emotions differ slightly from the males. This often results in making vastly different choices compared to our male counterparts when facing the same situation. A classic example: in a situation of danger, women express tendencies to seek measures to provide safety and security, while males express tendencies that reflect the desire to remove or at the very least diminish the source of the threat. Moreover, each woman’s upbringing and personal experiences shape their thought processes and ultimately the choices they end up making.

Given the different financial responsibilities of her household and of her own, and that each woman’s characteristics and goals for herself and her family differ so greatly one woman to another, it is suffice to therefore conclude that the umbrella term “women empowerment” and the “women empowerment” thought bubbles, workshops and events needs to be scrutinised, or at the very least, analysed carefully. In terms of financial planning, financial plans ought to be carefully crafted and curated to meet her individual needs. Awareness of this matter will help her discern generic advice from what is truly beneficial to her, likely motivate her to seek personalised advice to review and bolster her own financial plans, and ultimately find comfort in knowing what exactly she could do that truly sets herself on the right path towards her goals.

Change

It’s been a long while since I made any substantial changes to my personal website, cherietan.com. On the evening of 22nd November 2018, I decided to hit “delete” and restart on WordPress.com, where I first started three thousand years ago.

Yes, still me, Cherie. ☺️ Decided to embrace simplicity and focus my efforts on larger business projects and serving my valued clients as their dedicated financial planner.

I find it incredibly refreshing to have a diminutive online presence.