A reader asked us a couple of relationship questions this week. When we started answering it, both Naren and I thought it will be better to answer the very same questions separately in two different blog posts with each of our perspectives. So this one is written by Sugandha and has a women’s perspective.
- Q1 Are both of you on the same page about this kind of a lifestyle?
- Q2 How important is it to find a partner who has the same money script as you?
- Q3 I’ve heard that money is the Number One thing couples fight about. If so, does having the same script make these kind of decisions easier?
- Q4 I ask you specifically because I feel like following this kind of a lifestyle is unacceptable to a lot of people, and can cause more than a few problems.
- Q5 If I’m looking for a partner, does this have to be an important consideration?
Men and Women think differently about managing money
A few generations back, family finances were a simpler affair—Men made big money decisions outside of the house and women got allowances to run the house and managed the household expenses. Women were okay not knowing things beyond running the house. It was also okay for a husband to keep financial secrets from their wives. Maybe imperative to keep some money away from their spendthrift wives (or so the stereotypes go). 🙂
Things are never black and white, so in some houses women had more say than the others. But managing overall family finances was a job for the “Man of the House”.
I remember we had a black tin box with all financial documents that my dad would look at from time to time while my mom would quietly sit next to him, if just in case he wanted to discuss something or wanted a cup of tea.
Few other household women might have more say. My maternal grandmother a graduate in those days married a lawyer. She would have a say in most financial matters—buying a house, selling/buying agricultural land etc.—partly because she had her own personal inheritance from her father. But still, the final word on things would be my Grandfather’s.
My grandmother is the most intelligent women I have known. She is 92, who still remembers what she studied in her 4th standard. But she still told my mom and even me to listen to the Man in our lives when it came to money and other important matters. Her words “Aadmi ka dimaag jyada hota hai, wo aage tak ke sochta hai”.
I could never understand the contrast in her personality. She could have a long conversation with our family doctor on new medical advances but for some reason felt she should rely on her husband’s opinion when it came to managing finances.
Perhaps this shows the role women were groomed for traditionally and their lack of confidence in managing personal finances is not a question of their intelligence but their education.
On the other hand with autonomy comes responsibility. The old way not only prevented women to learn first-hand about personal finances but it also had put immense pressure on the Male to independently manage finances—which is a humongous task for a single person.
All the above have influenced modern Indian Women like me who were never exposed to personal finance while growing up but are now walking hand-in-hand with their partners as far as earning money is concerned. They don’t feel inadequate in any which way like perhaps their grandmothers or mothers did.
These smart, hardworking , financially and emotionally independent women however are clueless about managing their finances. They still depend on their husband, father, brothers, or that helpful male colleague to help them with taxes, investment etc etc..
What I am trying to tell from this cross- generational story is that Men and Women are not on the same page when it comes to finances because of the different roles both genders handled in the past and lack of exposure women had on this subject.
Change is, of course, happening. I had to learn to do my taxes, I learned to do my investments too. But it was a conscious effort on my side to learn and understand everything about personal finance.
So where managing money may be a more straightforward journey for men, for most women it was limited to budgeting and shopping till a while back. They are just now wrapping their head around complex things like taxes, investments, Mutual funds, asset allocation, portfolio re-balancing etc.
How we as a couple communicate and handle our differences when it comes to personal finance?
This will be best shared by sharing anecdotes right from the start. From when we were not even married or committed to each other
Honesty is the best policy
When Naren and I first met he had come back from the US and was making negligible profits in his business. While we liked each other the next obvious question was of marriage so he disclosed his income to me.
I was shocked! I thought how is this guy thinking of marriage without regular income? So I asked him exactly this. How? to which Naren replied “I can take care of my part of expenses” That was the second shock to me! I was an independent, working woman, earning enough to sustain a family but I was not okay with the idea of marrying someone who is talking about splitting living expenses after marriage.
I saw my own hypocrisy first-hand. I wanted to be an equal in marriage but at some level wanted my future husband to have an upper hand when it came to finances.
At this point I thought “we can’t possibly marry”—a decision we soon changed. 🙂 More on this some other time.
As evident from the story at this point our view on our finances did not click at all. The only good things I can say about us at this point were:
- We were completely honest with each other.
- We left the communication open.
- We were somewhat open to accept where we may be consciously or unconsciously being irrational.
That helped. So we highly recommend it.
Use the initial attraction to share biggest dreams
Naren and I shared the most absurd dreams with each other when we first met—travelling for months, living in a remote village, being our own boss, not going to work on Mondays etc etc. We had nothing to lose, we were not committed or too involved yet with each other.
All this gave us a good perspective about the other person. We knew at this point that if we choose to spend life with each other, it would not be a conventional life.
When you meet someone you really like they give you strength and courage to pursue your dreams..There is a reason they want to spend their life with you.. Use the power of two, Naren always says that when two people decide to get married 1 + 1 should make 11 and not mere 2. I agree.
And guess what! All of those absurd dreams we shared with each other when we first met, quite a few of them are now a reality!!!
When I told my mother I met someone I want to marry but he has just started his business she told me to not quit my job ( i was independently trying to take break from work at that time). She made a valid point and I thought it too will make our post marriage life easier. As I would continue with my work till Naren settles down in his business.
When I told this idea to Naren he did not like the idea to hold my plans for his sake. He assured me that I do not have to sacrifice for his sake. At this point Naren also offered to go back to a job if that is what is needed for us to start a life together.
Both the above ideas were sensible safe options. But involved sacrifice on one person’s part. So we discussed it and went ahead with what was right for each one of us. I asked Naren to continue with his business as long as he wanted and he asked me to quit my job if I wanted.
It is good for the long-term if both the people in relationship can progress in a relationship at the same time. Sometimes what is safe may not be right thing to do.
A good tip we followed came from the book 7 habits of highly effective people. While making a decision look for win-win solutions to ensure harmony in long run. Win-lose situations soon bring resentment in a relationship. Below is the snapshot from the book that explains the win-win mindset a bit more in detail
Talk about money and your quirks
I had a very twisted relationship with money. I totally appreciated all the comfort that money bought. But when I started making more money I felt that money is bad and it is preventing me from growing spiritually. As weird as it may sound now, that was how I was when I met Naren.
Naren was weird too in his own way.. I will say he almost believed all his problems would vanish if he saves enough to retire early.
When you are young sometimes you don’t know all these things about yourself. And even if you know you are not confident how the other person will take these quirks so you may be tempted to hide some of your quirks.
Well we would say that no matter how awkward you feel about certain aspect of money talk it out with your partner.
Sharing expenses, Investments does not mean that you are not romantic or love each other any less
Another anecdote on bringing up awkward subjects- Naren and I had decided to always have 50-50 partnership in all aspects- money, investments, house work etc.. So, all our investments post-marriage were split 50-50% right from the SIP stage. Once we decided to increase our monthly SIPs and drop a few mutual funds from our portfolio but these new changes reduced my share of investments by ~10%.
This bothered me . But I also felt bit hesitant in sharing this with Naren. I thought I love him and we plan to spend rest of our lives with each other. So this mere 10% reduction in my share shouldn’t be a problem. But it did not sit well with me and we discussed the matter and made some changes to restore the share to 50-50 once again.
Was it an awkward conversation? yes it was – But if you are honest and are coming from a good place in your heart the other person will sooner or later understand it.
Rationally there is no need to mix finances with love. Having clear division of your family finances does not mean you love each other less but something two independent adults should do to avoid any bitter feeling later on in a relationship.
Also some people may fear that talking money may take out romance from their relationships. I have a friend who thought that way. But what can be more intimate than sharing everything and being fully transparent?
But it is still okay to support each other financially
Couple of months before our marriage I had taken a sabbatical from work. And I was living off my savings. At this time Naren and I were also doing lot of travel together and consolidating our finances.
We both independently had enough savings to sustain ourselves for couple of years. Naren’s business had started to make some money, so he suggested that he will take care of both our expenses till the time I get back to making money. He also said that all my own money I should re-invest in higher return assets under my own name.
His idea was that he can support me now and later he could take a sabbatical while I support him. I liked the idea because it took away some pressure from my head while I also felt confident about our partnership.
Sometimes it is okay for one partner to give and the other to take it graciously. And when the time comes, to return the favour graciously. But both partners should be very clear about how much one wants to give and take comfortably.
Nothing should be taken for granted.
Naren – thank you for loading the dishwasher every day, filling the water bottles and putting my water bottles on the bedside each night 🙂
It Took Time
We spent good 3 years of our relationship understanding each other’s point of view, debating, arguing about it.
Did we have fights? Hell yes we did!
Off-course we are not in agreement most of the time, but with time we are able to see each other’s perspective and move on.
Align Life Philosophies & rest will fall into place
Sometimes we feel we are able to find a resolution to most of our money and general conflicts is because we both have a lot of common life philosophies. We both are very different in many ways but these broad philosophies we share help us find common grounds:
- Love for freedom
- Working on our “selves” to be a better, happier, more efficient person
- Living an uncomplicated life
- Self-motivated and independent
- Being patient while pursuing a goal
- Believing that with planning you can achieve most of things you want from life
- Always valuing individual over society, rituals and religion
Educating ourselves against obvious pitfalls
Naren gets 100% credit for introducing me to Vijay Nagaswami’s book 24 X 7 marriage. The book talks about issues in New Morden Indian relationships/Marriage beautifully. Writer does not stop at sharing the most common pitfalls in a new relationship but also provides good solutions to overcome such situations.
The book also has a optimal marriage template that can be used by couples with very different point of views to come to the common grounds.
The second book 50-50 Marriage focuses on problems of couples in longer marriages.
I recommend both the books. It is refreshing to read an Indian author with unbiased prospective on most common problems faced in today’s marriages.
Keeping Individual alive in a relationship
Naren and I have common goals such as saving up for early retirement, our son’s overall and financial well being etc.. We work on these goals together as a team.
But we have independent goals as well. Few of my independent financial goals are saving up to buy a bigger house, upgrading our lifestyle a bit every few years, doing more travel. It is clear between us that all of these are mine to accomplish even if Naren is not as passionate about these as I am. He may or may not meet me half way for some of these and it is okay with me.
It is impossible to be in agreement to everything in a relationship. In such cases it is better to let your partner know how important these things are for you and pursue/handle them independently.
Reader Q & A
Read this to know about money scripts
Q1. Are both of you guys are on the same page about this kind of a lifestyle?
Ans – We have slight differences when it comes to our lifestyle. But we are in agreement in how we both will get to it. We have agreed to live no frill lifestyle acceptable to both till we reach F.I.R.E and after that we plan to add few frills:-) We both have agreed to match our FIRE corpus to meet every lifestyle upgrade.
Q2 How important is it to find a partner who has the same money script as you?
Ans– Naren and I had different money scripts, so I guess it is okay as long you both understand each others attitude towards money and are okay with it.
Q3– I’ve heard that money is the Number One thing couples fight about. If so, does having the same script make these kind of decisions easier?
Ans– Yes, It is. followed by household chores and now that we have a baby- I will say having a baby puts lot of pressure on a relationship too.
I am guessing similar money script alone can not insure successful relationship. Besides money script there are other things as well that influence a couple, such as how well you communicate, how much you respect each others views etc…
Q4 I ask you specifically because I feel like following this kind of a lifestyle is unacceptable to a lot of people, and can cause more than a few problems.
Ans– Yes it is not everyones cup of tea for two reason that it is lot of work initially and this lifestyle singles you out ,and you may feel peer pressure. One has to be really invested in it some way or the other for it to work.
Q5 If I’m looking for a partner, does this have to be an important consideration?
Ans– Yes I think so, for a healthy- fulfilling relationship it is important to know how your partner feels about it. They may or may not want to participate but they have to at-least be in full agreement for you perusing it.
A version of this post was previously published on SavingHabit and is republished here with permission from the author.
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