Last week I interviewed pschology-of-money expert Syble Solomon about how to discuss finances constructively. Afterwards, she sent me a deck of her Money Habitudes cards, designed to help couples (or parents and kids, or business partners, or anybody else who has to make money decisions together). I opened the pack a sceptic; I came away a believer.
The cards don't offer financial tips, teach you how to manage money, or lead you to specific financial decisions. Rather, they explore the habits and attitudes that underlie your beliefs about money. Used wisely, they could stop the arguing in your marriage. Taking a look at how the card game works can teach you a better way to talk about money with your spouse.
The easiest way to play Money Habitudes with your partner is to each go through the deck of 52 statement cards, picking out the cards that reflect your beliefs. There are six "suits" that reflect major themes: Planning; Status; Giving; Security; Carefree; and Spontaneous. As I flipped through the cards, making my choices, it triggered all kinds of memories of money decisions I've made, for better or worse – call them the ghosts of finance past. When I finished my sort, I wasn't surprised to see my pile of Security cards ("I will spend a lot of time and energy to get a better deal." "I rarely buy things unless I can pay them off right away.") looming higher than my Carefree cards (a few examples that didn't make the cut for me: "When I need money, I just ask my friends or family to help me." "I think things will work out, so I don't worry about money."). Honestly, I wish I could be more carefree.
The next step is to consider the major patterns the cards you've chosen portray: Are you spontaneous? Solomon says that means "money encourages you to enjoy the moment." Did you choose a lot of status cards? "Money helps you create a positive image." Is planning very important to you? "Money is used to achieve your goals." And so on.
Interpreptation cards for each of the six themes detail the specific advantages, disadvantages and challenges a particular attitude fosters. For example, if Giving scored high with you, you "have strong values and convictions," but you may be "disappointed if money or gifts are not appreciated."
The key thing is not just to find out more about yourself – what you believe about money and (even more important) why, but to compare notes with your spouse. Understanding why he's a planner and you're spontaneous, while security is numero uno for one of you but not the other, is the first step in finding common grounds, and being able to stop the arguing about money.
Of course, you don't need a card game to do this; the key thing about how to manage your money together happily is to talk not just about how you feel but why you feel that way. Do you reflect or rebell against the attitudes your family held about money when you were growing up? Are you and your spouse fighting about the same issues your parents argued about? Whose financial tips did you trust – your mother's or your father's?
Solomon's work with her clients is aimed at showing them that the same deeper beliefs may underlie differing attitudes we hold. Understanding that we share those deeper beliefs can calm us down and make us feel more confident.
For more information: Solomon has more details and examples about how couples can talk about money constructively on her website.