By Gabrielle Olya, GoBankingRates featuring Samantha J. Garcia, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove
It’s true that opposites attract, but when you and your partner have different attitudes about spending and saving money, conflict may arise. In today’s “Financially Savvy Female” column, we’re chatting with Samantha Garcia, CFP, wealth advisor at Halbert Hargrove, about how couples can successfully navigate through this tricky situation.
Some people are “spenders” and some people are “savers” — but what happens when these two opposites are in a relationship? What should a couple do as soon as they realize they are opposites in this regard?
The first thing that you have to do is you need to figure out, what am I and what is my partner? You need to understand yourself and you need to understand your partner.
Then, the most important thing is to communicate with your partner. The earlier these conversations can come up, the better for everybody in the future. I know money is still a really taboo topic in relationships, but if you’re hoping to succeed and you’re truly a spender and saver opposite, it’s really important to have that open line of communication when it comes to money. If you don’t, then you’re going to continue to be a spender and he’s going to continue to be a saver, and you’re just going to butt heads. Or the spender’s going to feel like, ‘Hey, why are you watching every dollar I spend? I don’t want you to be my parent, I want you to be my partner.’
When you communicate, [remember that] it’s not like one is a flaw and one is the right way to go. There are benefits to both. The savers are really good at saving up for goals, whether it’s a short-term or a long-term goal. But the spenders also have good qualities. Sometimes it makes the savers take a little bit more risk, or maybe take a vacation that’s a little bit more luxurious than they thought they would take. It brings them some of those experiences and things that they didn’t think were going to be worth it.
How can you prevent resentment from building up when you don’t agree with how your partner handles money?
Be open and honest, and set goals together. Maybe those are savings goals — maybe you’re looking at starting a family and need to move to out of your apartment or need a bigger house. Agree to what the savings goal is and make sure you’re on the same page.
On the flip side of that, for the spender who maybe doesn’t want to be controlled, maybe there’s an agreed-upon spending limit. My husband and I have a dollar amount — anything under $100, go ahead [and buy it]. You don’t have to get permission. Anything over that, we need to talk about where that money is going to and it becomes a mutual decision.
Once you agree to a savings goal, how can couples ensure they actually stick to the constraints they have set?
Make savings automatic so you don’t have to think about it. It’s such a practical idea, especially if you have dueling personalities. [But regularly] come back to [your goals]. It has to be a flexible arrangement where you can come back to the table — and you should come back to the table on a regular basis and renavigate what those are. Are those still priorities? Have things shifted? Life changes.
If a couple has different attitudes about money, they may just be tempted to each do their own thing and not talk about it. What are the possible repercussions of this?
When you’re the spender, it’s tempting to say, “I’m just going to make this one little purchase.” Or if you’re the saver, “I’m just going to squirrel this extra money away and they don’t need to know about it.” You think you’re doing an OK thing, but at the end of the day, if those things start to come out, it can deteriorate some of that trust in that relationship.
For a couple that’s spending and saving opposites, can a joint account still work? Or is it better to have separate accounts?
I think society has always said, once you’re married, your finances should be together. Millennials and Gen Z are trying to tip that on its head. Why do we have to have everything joint? I think it’s important to have a joint account for joint goals — if you’re living together, make sure all of the home bills are being funneled into an account and split out. But I think it’s OK to have separate accounts too, especially for that spender who doesn’t want to feel like their partner is their parent. Agree upon the [amount] — you can spend this much a month or this much a quarter — then put that in a different account so you can do whatever you want with that. Then the saver is not getting anxious about where is that money going. It also puts a limit on it. Once that account is down to zero, there’s no more spending.
Can being spending and saving opposites actually be a good thing for couples?
[Life is] about balance. It’s not about saving for everything and it’s not about spending all of your money. Most people who are spenders have a little bit of saver in them, and some people who are savers have a little bit of spender in them.
One of our taglines at Halbert Hargrove is “the fearless pursuit of well-lived todays and tomorrows.” If you’re a spender, you want to live in today but you can’t forget about tomorrow. Savers, same thing. You want to squirrel it away, put all of your acorns into the tree for winter, but at the same time, how much are you sacrificing of your happiness today?