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Let’s Talk About Money

Do you talk about your money? You should, because money issues can often be avoided with the simple fix of communication. Money and relationships are very similar in this respect. You have to talk about both (preferably with your partner) if you want them to work out for you. And if you are already married you probably know how closely linked marriage and money become in your relationship.

There’s no doubt that divorce is rampant in our society and in a good many cases money is one of the reasons. Usually it isn’t the lack of money that causes the issue (rich people get divorced as frequently as poor), but rather the lack of communication about money. In truth, financial problems in a marriage can actually serve to pull the partners closer together as they work to resolve the underlying debts and financial chaos.

I think many cases of conflict about money in a marriage (or any partnership) can be avoided. Arguments about money seem to follow a very similar pattern. One partner, or both, fail to have the critical discussions about where and how the money gets spent, what the plans are for savings and the future and most importantly their feelings about how money is handled, spent and saved.

I don’t know if there is a connection, but here in Thailand the divorce rate is very low (less than 10%) and people talk about money very freely. I’m not talking just about within a relationship, but among friends and even acquaintances. It is not unusual at all to be asked how much your house, car and wedding cost as well as asking how much money you make at your job. Comparisons are often made and no one takes offense or gets jealous (much) of those who through luck or hard work are making more money.

Maybe this came about because of the relative lack of money in Thailand. A good portion of the population here are quite poor or very recently have joined the middle class. Or possibly it is because social status here is very tied to money and Thais are extremely conscious of social status. The easiest way to determine your place would be to quite simply just ask. I’m not sure, but the positive upside is that talking about money, budgeting and saving in a relationship is much less fraught with peril.

Another difference I’ve noted is that Thai couples are much more likely to keep separate accounts than their Western counterparts. Not just money, but even land and investments are often kept separate, with the husband having his property and income and the wife having hers. A joint account is kept for the household expenses of course. My wife and I do this and to be honest I think it helps avoid money issues and problems in several ways.

  • We talk more about the household budget because we are both invested in it. It is not the responsibility of one or the other.
  • We rarely have conflicts over spending because the money being spent is typically not joint funds, but rather our own funds. I have my fun money and she has hers. The way that money is used is up to each individual.
  • Because we have our own separate accounts we are more likely to buy small gifts for each other on a regular basis. There is no guilt involved about raiding the joint funds that could have been used for savings. Maybe this is just us though 🙂

Whatever the differences between how money is handled by couples here in Thailand and how it is handled in the West, the key factor is communication. If you are just starting a relationship be honest about your finances and expect the same from your partner. Share details about your income, your expenses and even your debts. I don’t doubt this might be embarrassing for some, but relationships are totally about honesty and trust. If the relationship continues the truth will come out eventually and if it was hidden for some time you will certainly be seen as breaking the trust in your relationship.

If you are already married you can help to avoid money problems in marriage by communicating as well. Talk about your feelings regarding money. Do you feel it is hard to come by and so you are extremely frugal? Or maybe you have an abundance mindset that tells you there is always more money to be had and this contributes to your free spending ways. Set plans and goals together for the future, whether that be long term goals like retirement or shorter term goals like a vacation or large purchase. And whatever you do, avoid breaking your partners trust in you by going against something the two of you have already discussed.

Money does not have to be an issue in a relationship. In fact, it can be something that pulls you closer together when you share common goals. Even if your feelings about money differ greatly, it will help your relationship when your partner knows what your feelings are. At least that way they can understand some of your money behaviors and can even help you change them if that’s what you want.

Marriage and money both require communication, trust and honesty from you as well as from your partner. If you haven’t been communicating about your money why not start today. It can be something as simple as “How much money do you think we should be saving”? Keep an open mind because you might not agree with the answer, but at least you will have opened the channels of communication.

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