10 money questions every couple should ask
Lynda C. Corpuz, MoneySense
First Posted 10:51:00 03/05/2009
From content sharing of inquirer.net and MoneySense
1: Why do we fight about money?
Melvin Esteban, a registered financial consultant, explains that couples fight about money because they do not have enough of it. Toti Tanchoco, Jr., Cocolife senior vice president for finance, says, “They fight about spending it – not money per se.”
Fr. Ted, Gonzales, S.J., Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM)-Ateneo De Manila University overall program coordinator says couples undergo counselling for a lot of reasons. “Money is one of the issues, but not the main issue. [The] money issue is maybe a symbol or a mirror of the quality of their relationship for it historically traces how they view money,” he says.
2: How do divvy up financial duties?
Melvin points out that the wife is the default keeper of the purse, especially if the couple is starting out. “Generally, females are more budget conscious,” he reasons. Toti, however, says the wife should not be handling everything. “It’s incidental she’s handling the finances but it should not be ‘binigay sa iyo, bahala ka na (It was given to you, you deal with it),’” he says. Fr. Ted explains, “Although that is not always the case, we still have the tendency to repeat the same old patterns. But a mature couple should be together in managing their household finances.”
Couple Bambi and Francous Groleaus share money responsibilities by simply doing what they’re best at. For instance, Francois attended to the particulars of their wedding venue while Bambi took care of the entourage’s needs. Planning a year in advance, and targeting a P500,000 budget, she prepared the spreadsheet while he ended up filling it in. Culturally, Bambi says Filipina wives usually budget for everything while Francois says French men often take charge of investments.
3: Should we really have to tell each other about each purchase we make?
It is just fair to tell your spouse what you buy, but there is no need to detail small purchases, Melvin says. “Just make sure you tell each other if the purchase is big, like a car, a house, or an educational plan. Both of you should decide on that big purchase,” Melvin says. “It is always best to be open with each other,” Toti points out.
4: How do deal with our personal luho? (frivolities)
It’s important that a couple sets the right priorities. Buying that new designer bag or getting yet another gadget isn’t a priority. “The way we use money is how we prioritize what is important. The couple should really sit down and talk about their priorities,” Fr. Ted says.
With two pre-teen children, Bernie and Coralu Santos follow the adage of living within your means. “For me, if it’s not yet a necessity, I won’t buy it. I’ll just look and look at it, but I won’t buy it immediately,” Bernie says. “We wait for the right timing, and if we can afford it already, we buy,” Coralu adds.
But that doesn’t mean you should never spend on yourself. You just have to put a lid on it. An allowance system is a good way to budget and limit discretionary expenses. Toti says it is wise to set aside money not just for basic requirements like food, utilities, and children’s education, but also a little for recreation. Melvin recommends 50% of one’s income go to a common fund, 30% to allowance, and 20% to savings. “As income increases, savings should also be increased. Bonuses can be used to treat yourself to your personal luho once in a while,” he says.
5: Should we only have a joint account?
Thirteen years after their marriage, the Santoses opened a joint account just two years ago. “Bakit kailan lang? Kasi wala kaming ganoon, `yun lang ang dahilan (Why just now? Because we didn’t have that before, that’s all),” Bernie says. But apart from their joint account now, they still have their personal accounts.
Meanwhile, the Groleaus started early. “When we got married, we started to contribute to the common fund for our household needs. We still continue each of our personal accounts,” Francois shares. “We put an equal amount for the common fund. When there’s extra money, Francois is the first to put in additional funds,” Bambi shares. Although they have personal accounts, it does not mean they are keeping secrets about where their money goes. “I still tell Francois how much I’m putting in my account,” she cites.
The two couples are doing an acceptable compromise. They have a joint account for common expenses and personal accounts for individual expenses. Melvin adds that having a joint account is good because you can still have access to the family’s wealth in case of your spouse’s incapacity or death.
6: How do we deal with financial crises like being victimized by a scam or piling up a huge debt?Fr. Ted says it’s always a danger when one spouse gets into a financial mess. “Like an addiction, you don’t want to let it out with your spouse since there’s some shame about it. Those can break up the relationship and leave deep wounds. It’s truly traumatic to have creditors running after the spouse,” he says.
Toti says tendencies or habits like these should be known early on. “These should be discussed before getting married so you can agree to discipline each of your spending, saving, and investing habits,” he says.
Fr. Ted says the guilty spouse will have to be honest about the unmanageability of the situation and go through a genuine recovery. “Because if there’s no real examination of life, and a real surrender of that behavior, it will drain the whole family of their patience, resources, and understanding,” he explains.
Always remember your spouse loves you very much that he or she is willing to marry you, Melvin says. “No matter how grave the situation is, your spouse will always be your partner to help you. The more you keep it a secret, the worse it gets,” he says.
Fr. Ted says, despite everything, trust that something good will still happen and be ready to make amends. “Making amends is righting the wrong. But when you love tenderly, you will know your strengths and weaknesses, and you can act justly,” he says.
7: How do we handle power struggles related to money?
Couples should review their values if they keep on fighting about money, especially in the context of who has the bigger income, “because it can sometimes be a power to some, an excuse to dominate or lord it over the other person,” Fr. Ted says. “But if you really look at it, a family is just one unit regardless of who’s earning more.”
“The best way is to talk and there should always be a compromise for everything,” Melvin says. If the wife earns more, the husband should take it as a constructive challenge, he adds. “If the wife is earning more, it should be an inspiration for the man, especially if he is insecure about it. But should he really be insecure about it? It’s all about role-playing, and one should accept each other’s role,” Toti says.
8: Is it possible for us to live on one income?
While it is ideal for one spouse to stay at home to focus on the children and household matters, given the times, living on a single income can be difficult. The wife should only stay at home if she cannot earn more than a house help, Melvin says. “Otherwise, both should work. Of course there are other reasons to be considered, thus the saying, ‘a mother’s love is always priceless,’” he says.
The Santoses found it necessary not just to work full-time but find extra sources of income. Whenever their workload allowed, they accepted sidelines to add to their finances. Money they saved from these sidelines automatically went to their children’s accounts.
It may be difficult, but not impossible. It takes a lot of financial discipline to live within a single income, but that works easier if the working spouse is earning an adequate amount of money.
9: How should we deal with parents who are financially dependent on us?
The Santoses are helping their relatives. “Tumutulong din kami. Hindi puwedeng mawala `yun sa monthly budget naming(We help out. We need to include this in our budget),” Coralu says. Fr. Ted says the questions here are: How much do you give? And how regular? He adds that some in-laws are becoming too dependent, as in the cases of migrant workers who have the whole barangay of relatives waiting for their salaries. “Assess if there is an abuse already and what is the effect of this constant shelling out for the relatives. If unmanageable, this will drain the couple’s budget,” he warns.
Dealing with in-laws and relatives about money has emotional strains to it, Melvin says. He suggests if you are earning more than you are actually spending, it is but right that you support your parents and in-laws. “Remember, you and your spouse would not be where you are now if not for your parents,” he says.
Toti, however, believes that couples have to meet their own needs first. “It will not help in your planning as a couple and it just tolerates the parasitical situation. But if you know you’ll have to still provide for your parents, don’t marry yet. Becoming independent is the idea why you’re starting a family,” he says.
10: How do I deal with an uncooperative spouse?
Melvin subscribes to what the best sales people believe is “your 99.” “That means, 99% of the time, you’re thinking of what’s good for them. So you have to convince him or her on anything,” he says. Fr. Ted advises to first exhaust all means, like counselling or attending marriage encounters. But if it is really unmanageable, the Church will look into the marriage’s viability. “The Church wants a couple to have a relationship grounded in love. But it also tries to be objective in considering certain relationships that are out of control, especially if there were already hints of unmanageability before the marriage,” he explains.