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Have a shared money vision with your partner

Talking openly about finances in the family can be tricky but is necessary

Nombulelo and Kevin Makhubo
Nombulelo and Kevin Makhubo
Image: Supplied

The adage “Love is blind” implies that the person who is in love can see no faults or imperfections in the person they love. In many instances this leads them blindly into financial ruin.

Cited from the 2019 marriages and divorces report from Statistics SA, newly married couples should work towards having a shared vision of their family’s financial future by embracing teamwork and adhering to mutually agreed-on decisions. In between demanding ex-spouses and the shadow of black tax and dependent siblings, this is a tall order for a new family.

Open communication about personal finances within our families is still a sensitive subject, with many working young people being encouraged to find employment, earn a salary, save money and the rest will fall into place.

“But it’s not that simple,” cautions medical practitioner Kevin Mbongiseni Makhubo. “No-one taught me how to do finances. All I was taught was just to make money. I wasn’t shown what to do with it once I had it.”

This was not the case with his wife, Nombulelo Makhubo, an architectural technologist by profession and content creator by passion. “I grew up in a family where finances were spoken about openly. My parents taught me and my siblings how to manage our finances”, she says.

Emboldened by her parents’ passion, Nombulelo introduced the topic of money early in their dating years, carefully walking the line between her world and Kevin’s.

“We spoke about finances quite early because we wanted to spend a lot of time together. Kevin had financial responsibilities at home, so going out on dates every week was not going to be sustainable for him,” says Nombulelo

Mapalo Makhu is a personal finance expert.
Mapalo Makhu is a personal finance expert.
Image: Supplied

Renowned author, columnist and personal finance expert Mapalo Makhu believes the best time to bring up the money talk in relationships is before problems begin to pile up. “Ordinarily, people want to start talking about money when things are bad. The best time to talk about money is when things are still okay,” she says.

“And when you are having the conversation, don’t expect the other person to view money the same the way you view it; that will only cause friction.”

Nombulelo and Kevin approach sensitive financial topics such as debt with transparency, honesty and openness.

“The first time she sat me down about my finances was uncomfortable but the more you do it the easier and more normal it becomes. It is for the betterment of your family – not for her to shame you,” says Kevin.

“Once you have got past the anxiety of opening up and being transparent with your partner, there is something fruitful at the end of it,” says Nombulelo.

Makhu says if you make room for the other partner to be open, you extend compassion to them. “The conversation then shifts from blaming each other to actually having compassion for one another [because you  understand that you grew up differently]”, she says.

The Makhubos say balancing one another’s weaknesses and strengths is important when you desire to have a healthy marriage. “If you don’t know as much about your partner’s weaknesses as you know about their strengths it drags the family down,” says Nombulelo. “Even if I may not have debt, my spending habits could bring the family to the point of detriment.”

“Once you learn your partner’s weakness you can work with them to be better at that aspect and you can also change the weakness into your strength,” says Kevin.

Tips for healthy financial conversations in your relationship

While financial conversations are not always the most loved or eagerly anticipated, it is necessary they take place. How partners communicate can determine whether they have healthy finances or not.

Personal finance expert Mapalo Makhu shares these helpful tips for having healthy financial conversations with your partner.

1. Be intentionally understanding

A large part of how we view and use money is influenced by our upbringing. For this reason, your money beliefs and habits are likely to differ from those of your partner. Make room for these differences and be intentional about understanding your partner and their point of view. Expecting your partner to have the same money beliefs as you will only cause friction. Rather show understanding and compassion.

2. Prioritise respect and peace

While you may not agree with your partner on all financial issues, it is important to communicate in a manner that is peaceful and respectful. As a couple you may not always have it all figured out. However, respecting each other, even in the midst of disagreement, creates room for solutions.

3. Don’t wait for things to turn sour

Sometimes procrastinating on the sensitive topic of finances may seem like the better option. However, it is not. Honest financial conversations should be had as early as possible and not as a form of damage control. Being open, honest and understanding while all is still going well allows you to avoid unnecessary financial mistakes.

4. Converse with goals in mind

Having clearly set financial goals grants you better financial direction. It also enables you to take the necessary steps towards your desired financial position. When engaging in money talk with your partner, make sure you set goals to eliminate all decisions that do not align with them.

5. Be willing to include a third party should the need arise

Whether it’s a psychologist, financial adviser or relationship coach, some situations call for the input of a third party. Inviting someone who is experienced and not as emotionally invested in the relationship can be very helpful as you navigate the tricky terrain of financial conversations.

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