Why your family’s financial habits are causing conflict in your relationships.

Are you and your spouse constantly fighting about money? Is the stress and the pressure of the finances putting a strain on your relationship? Potentially, breakdowns and breakups can result when couples are at odds over finances. Because finances affect almost every area of our lives, it’s crucial to have knowledge, skills and agreement over it in our relationships.

The family you grew up in, how your parents handled finances, their attitudes towards money influenced you to some degree – those habits and attitudes were passed on down to you, til today, whether you’re aware of it or not.

So the clashing habits and differing mentalities over money could be the reason why you might be butting heads. Before you married your spouse, did you know what their family habits were with handling money? Did you talk openly and candidly about this? Did you identify areas to talk over and agree over?

Yep, there’s MORE to it than you thought!

Don’t avoid those conversations…

When my husband and I were dating, we had no idea of what each other’s family’s financial habits were. We didn’t talk about finances, let alone each other’s families! My husband Stan worked for his Dad and I worked teaching english here and there (on my working holiday in Hong Kong). All we did was earn and spend – living one day at a time – how immature we were, when I look back!

Ahem, our lack of communication and our short term mentality really put us on a back footing. This is not how you do relationships, folks! (fortunately as time went on, we learned to communicate, understand and agree on more things).

What were your family’s habits?

What about you? Do you believe that your attitudes, and how you handle money can be greatly influenced by how you were raised and what your family habits were? Each family is unique in its dynamics, structure, lifestyles, culture, educational background and so on.

These family factors and more can have a direct bearing on how you handle your finances today. For example, here are some habits I inherited from my relatives, which I have, to this very day.

My story…

Born in Guangzhou, China, my family of 6 (my mother, father, and 3 sisters) immigrated to Napier, New Zealand, when I was 6 years old.  Yes, I was one of the lucky ones to have ‘escaped’ the remote village life, for which I am so thankful for.

It was my grandfather who left China first; he sacrificed a good many years of his life establishing himself financially so that he could ‘bring us’ out of China and into the land of ‘gold’ – as it was known by then!

My grandfather was a diligent and clever entrepreneur. From the start he saved up enough to buy himself a piece of land – 10 hectares with a house on it, and established a market garden – where fruit and vegetables were cultivated to be sold through a weekly auction house.

Market gardening was no doubt very labour intensive ‘24/7’ work, and relentlessly mundane. But the produce brought in an income, and the real estate he purchased, appreciated every year. He later went on to purchase two more properties like the first one.  I guess I inherited a little bit of his nose for self employment and business.

My grandmother came to NZ abit later, after my Grandfather, and was also very hard working and a frugal individual. She hardly ever went out shopping or socialising, instead she found happiness by working in the garden. She loved to quietly labour amongst the veggies and weeds in all kinds of weather. She was very frugal with everything, and didn’t like wasting anything – something I got from her too!

Since my dear father passed away of an illness when I was 9 years old, my only fond memories of him were that he was caring, smart, and loved my mother and sisters very much. My Dad was my hero and I’ll always remember him this way.

My mother is loved and adored by all her children, their spouses and their kids, because she made many sacrifices for us – overnight she became a single mother, who spoke very little english, with 5 mouths to feed.  

My grandparents (mentioned above) supported her abit but my mum became a self sufficient, industrious mother who made the best out of a very tragic situation. My mum always taught us, “don’t buy anything if you don’t have the cash for it”. So that’s how I spent money – if I needed something I had to save up to pay for it first. Great habit, Mum!

So, those are some of the mindsets I formed about money: work hard and smart,  save, be frugal, spend wisely, become financially independent by growing a business.

My other half’s story…

Now what about my husband’s story you ask? Ok, here goes: Stan was born in Hong Kong. His parents ran a manufacturing and exporting business, so they were pretty much tied up in their work. Stan’s parents were very entrepreneurial and hard working. They simply didn’t have the time to be at home to be around their children. Their way of showing love to them was to provide for them.

So, growing up, Stan didn’t lack any material thing, neither was he short on cash – when he needed it, his parents gave it. Eventually the family immigrated to NZ. As the norm with many migrant families, the children were left in NZ for schooling while the parents flew back and forth from their business based in Hong Kong.

Since the the children were left to pay the bills, go shopping for groceries etc, they had free reign on spending! The kids weren’t expected to work or save, neither were they taught how to manage the finances.

Stan did find some part time work to fund his own travels and personal spending, but his mentality on finances was ‘if you have it, why not spend it?” On the other hand he was a generous giver too. You can see why we had conflict over our finances later on … we were direct opposites when it came to handling money.

We can expect conflict to arise in any relationship – what counts though, is what we do when that happens. So, let’s see how we can resolve these conflicts over finances.

Resolve the heart issue first:

Perhaps before you can even begin to resolve the money issues, you may need to put right your relationship – so that you can actually talk peaceably! It could be that deep down, it’s really your insecurities, fears, and offences that have built up walls with the other person.

But you can take these walls down now:

  • choose a quiet, non distracting time to talk to your spouse
  • be prepared to listen to your spouse before you say your thing
  • put aside your anger, disagreements, differences and be prepared to apologise and admit your wrongs!
  • be ready to change your attitude and show it

Resolving the money issues between couples:

When you’re having these discussions, stay calm and try to be non emotional because you want to listen and understand without jumping to conclusions or you could end up picking another fight!

Here’s some points you can bring up, talk about and look at resolving. What works for one couple may differ from another, hence these key questions are to help you to see and to own your decisions.

A ‘meeting’ format can work well, you ‘set up’ a meeting to discuss this factually and unemotionally! Record what you say, so you can go back to it later to remind each other, keeping each other accountable.

1. Talk about your habits and attitudes growing up

So how did your parents view and handle money, status, or possessions? What were their attitudes and beliefs? What were their habits with earning, spending, saving, giving? What were their work ethics like? What were your attitudes, beliefs and habits growing up?

2. Talk about your habits and attitudes now

What about your beliefs, habits and attitudes on money, status and possessions now? What’s your work ethic like? Are your beliefs and habits vastly different or similar to your spouses? What can you or your spouse do more of? or change?

3. Agree on what’s a good habit to keep and what to change

What are the good habits you learned from your family? What are the ones you want to change? Can you agree on these?

4. Identify the good and the problems in your finances right now.

Who’s the main income earner? Do you have a separate or a joint account or both? Why? How much do you each earn, spend, save? What’s coming in and going out? How much debt do you have? Whats happening with the debt?

5. How will the changes happen? Discuss.

Practically, what can you do now to put into place the changes eg open a joint account for expenses, cut out/stop some agreed upon spending. Who will action it?

6. Who will be the one responsible to pay the bills? Agree on it.

Who will be the one to pay the household bills? How will the bills be paid? Who buys the groceries? Who pays for outings? Trips? What about personal expenditure? Do you agree on these things?

7. Discuss, agree and implement on income, spending, saving, & giving limits.

Record these on a spreadsheet! List income, expenses, personal spending, saving and giving amounts. A budgeting class online or at your local community will help if you need more skills in budgeting. The key is to mutually agree on these limits and stick to them!

The magic formula is … (drum roll please)

To be in agreement and to have respect for one another! Ta da! Yes, bottom line, it’s how you treat each other, then you’ll be able to make improvements – this requires love, honesty and trust. Do you have this in your relationship?

How’d you go? This may be an ongoing problem solving project for some of us. It may not be something that can be quickly fixed overnight. From experience it’s better to resolve relational conflict, to live peaceably rather than fighting or disagreeing, which can only make the problems worse.

Opposing money personalities can also cause conflict. It’s helpful to learn that we all tend towards a certain personality trait, emotionally. Jump on here if you want more insight into this

What were your money habits growing up? How did this affect what you’re like now with your finances? Did you find this article helpful, why or why not?

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