ARBOR OUTLOOK: Parenthood, marital finance and Dax Shepard
“They say our love won’t pay the rent; Before it’s earned … our money’s all been spent.”
— from “I Got You Babe,” as performed by Sonny and Cher
An episode of “Parenthood” provided inspiration for this column. If you were a fan of this television series, you may be familiar with the scene I’m about to describe.
Zeke (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille Braverman’s (Bonnie Bedelia) youngest child Crosby (Dax Shepard) is preparing to wed a young lady named Jasmine (Joy Bryant), and acquiesces to a pre-marital counseling session with Jasmine’s minister. Sitting with the couple in the church office, the minister asks “Are you savers or spenders?” Jasmine replies immediately and with complete conviction: “Savers.” Crosby, who is a co-owner of The Luncheonette Recording Studio with his brother Adam, and who may want to spend some of the couple’s money on their business, is not so sure.
This one simple question, “Are you savers or spenders?” requires that couples address a watershed marital issue. Partners may think that an implied agreement already exists on this subject. If we love a person, surely they share our values, right? Ultimately, though, we may discover that we actually harbor very disparate ideas about personal finance than does our partner. Thus, the need to include such a financial question in pre-marital counseling sessions.
To hold a personal belief about saving and spending is one thing, but to articulate it is quite another. The act of declaring oneself a “saver” or “spender” implies, like a marriage vow, a commitment to that lifestyle. Many of our beliefs are not really our own, but are instead largely byproducts of our upbringing and life experiences. It is astounding how many habits we adopt, how many tenets we hold to be true, simply because our parents espoused these same beliefs and lived in a certain fashion. Our relationship to money is often inherited in this way.
It’s difficult for folks to talk about spending and saving. Our relationship to money is unique, personal and proprietary. When we share our feelings about our personal finances, we are revealing a part of ourselves that speaks volumes about our values and about who we are.
Financial issues can complicate or strengthen a partnership. Forfeiting the autonomous relationship that we have had with money our entire life and adopting a new shared relationship with another person is often unsettling and difficult.
We’re giving up part of our independence. But if we join a person who shares our values, oftentimes we can accomplish much more financially than we ever could have alone. Couples who define their financial values at an early age and commit to managing their personal finances in a fashion which reflects those values enjoy a great advantage in building wealth.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, author of the syndicated economic column "Arbor Outlook," is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 — www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.