Why financial 'fairness' can be a losing game in your marriage?
According to a new book, The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for Relationships, striving for 50/50 fairness in your marriage -- especially when it comes to money.
Reflecting on moments from their own marriage and scores of interviews with couples across the country, co-authors Nate and Kaley Klemp provide numerous examples of how the pursuit of "equal" across various household domains -- from childrearing to meal planning to money management -- most often results in score-keeping and disappointment.
As an alternative, the co-authors encourage readers to strive for "radical generosity" and "shared success," where each individual goes above and beyond to contribute more than their fair share.
The Klemps recently visited So Money to discuss insights from their book. Below, they provide specific steps for tackling money issues in your relationship using their new framework.
Values before roles and roles
Radical generosity suggests that when you give more, it will incite your partner to give less, resulting in a mutual habit of overdelivering that will, in theory, be almost infectious. This will result in feeling "on par" with your partner. However, it's important to ensure that you're providing something important.
You may be tempted to believe that it's important to spend time and effort managing your pooled funds. You spend hours a month reviewing your portfolio. Could outsourcing that task to a robo advisor free up your time to assist the household in areas that both you and your partner consider to be of greater importance? According to some studies, a passive investment approach may even be more profitable than equities.
Before assigning yourself a specific financial role in your relationship, it's important to have sex about common values, expectations, and priorities.
Nate states, "It's how you'll know you are winning together."
From there, assigning specific tasks to each person -- from budgeting to managing monthly bills -- can help you stay organized and accountable, and ensure that both individuals feel comfortable and contribute to a common financial life.
Beware of the'reluctant partner'
Do you like to be in control? Do you find that you fail to include your partner in financial matters when it comes to finances? It can cause people to check out and become reluctant to contribute. "The fundamental problem of modern marriage is that there's often an over- and an under-contributor -- and the under contributetress tends to be this reluctant partner who'll not contribute or work on the marriage in the same way," says Nate.
And it can result in resentment, as the Klemps discovered in their own marriage.
"Kaley ran the financial show for our family," Nate continued. "Not only was she the primary breadwinner initially, but she was also the one who had complete access to all the numbers and checks, accounts, and other things like that. She resented me for not helping out, but there was also this strange dynamic where I didn't get a chance [to play s/he]," he said.
A way to avoid this is to get yourself in the act. Schedule monthly check-ins to review your financial goals and make sure that if anyone is "over-representing," they ask for help before resentment or tension flares.
Fall back to structure.
" One of the most important ideas we learned was that, when it comes to money power imbalances, the simplest method to bring them back into balance is structure," says Nate.
Structures will vary by relationship -- but could include working with a financial planner who can facilitate dialogue and keep you both on the same page and working in sync toward your goals. Delegating responsibilities, holding recurring meetings, and automating payments are all effective methods of incorporating structure into your shared financial system.
Working together can help, too. "Many couples, for example, find that establishing a budget, where both partners play an equal role in creating its structure, neutralizes these power dynamics," says Nate.
Open at least one joint account. Open a minimum of one separate account each.
Whether there's only one major breadwinner, one method to work toward a common sense of financial success is to keep matched savings accounts (here are rated). You could use what the Kemps call an "all-in" approach or a more incremental approach, where you share some accounts but separate others. You may also consider a "shared pot" that you both pay into proportionately, assuming yours is based on remuneration.
Paychecks shouldn't be the driver of power.
In the business world, we tend to associate money with power. But in a personal relationship, such thinking can be detrimental and counterproductive. As the breadwinner in my own marriage, I've fallen victim to my personal unconscious beliefs about money. I used to think that making more meant having the final say on big financial decisions. After all, that's how my dad, who was the primary earner in our household, operated. But that mentality was built on outdated gender norms -- and I've had to quite literally retreat. All of this to say, the sooner you let go of assumptions about what money "entails" in terms of your power, status, or control over your relationship, your chances of creating a playing field that feels fair.