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How to Talk About Money with Your Spouse

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We inherit our eye color, height and body type from our parents. Mom and Dad also give us more than we bargained for when it comes to financial baggage.

As a struggling 20-something I went from one new car to the next, never realizing how good it might be to have a gently used car with no monthly payments attached. My parents rolled large and so did I… until I met my fiscally wise soul mate.

Not every adult makes that connection between their financial mindset and their parents’ point of view, says Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of ThirdPath Institute. The group is dedicated to achieving a healthy life balance for families, and part of that means couples becoming better stewards of their finances.

One way to do so is to talk with your partner about how your parents managed their income and savings, DeGroot says. That simple conversation can be an eye-opening process about the habits you gleaned without even thinking about it.

Did their money practices bring peace to the house or was it a source of family friction?

Most couples don’t share the same outlook toward money, even if they have many other traits in common, DeGroot says. And whether you’re living from paycheck to paycheck or planning how to save that extra bonus check these conversations matter.

“Couples always benefit from taking time to think about where they are with money,” DeGroot says. “The only way to get smarter around money is to take some time to assess where you are.”

DeGroot took that advice to heart in her own marriage.

“I’m not much of a spender. When I told my husband what it was like to grow up in my household I quickly learned where this pattern came from,” DeGroot says. “His family was very different, and when I learned more about what things were like for him growing up, it helped us both find more of a middle road.”

That process doesn’t have to be a chore.

“How about meeting for lunch once a month and coming up with a small task for each of you to do before your lunch date?” she suggests. Books like “For Richer Not for Poorer” by Ruth L. Hayden offer suggestions on getting back on the right fiscal track, she says.

DeGroot compares managing your money to tending a garden.

“By thinking about it together, you can get smarter about what you want to grow more of — earning money by doing work you enjoy, and spending money in was that feel smart, fun and affordable,” she says. “You can also work together to figure out what weeds you want to start pulling out — spending choices that aren’t the best use of your money.”

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