Juliet Okene, a certified life coach and relationship counsellor for business and career-focused woman in this interview with DAVID IJASEUN speaks on the common money issues that couples face and how to manage them for a financially-healthy marriage. Excerpts:
What are some specific financial challenges that couples commonly face, and how can they navigate these challenges effectively?
Couples often face various money issues or financial challenges throughout their relationship. Effectively navigating these challenges requires open communication, shared goals, and a willingness to work together. Here are three common financial challenges that couples face and simple strategies to address them:
Lack of Financial Communication and Financial Infidelity: The affected couples should schedule regular financial discussions where they both review their budget and address any concerns. They should also establish shared financial goals and prioritise these goals based on their values and timelines. Compromise, honesty and transparency are key.
Income Disparities: Partners in this category should discuss their financial goals and responsibilities openly. Consider contributing to shared expenses or investments proportionally to your incomes, focus should be on ‘equity’ not ‘equality’, this will ensure both partners feel financially invested.
Different Spending Habits: Create a budget together that accommodates both partners’ needs and priorities. Set clear spending limits, and consider implementing separate discretionary spending accounts to allow each person some financial autonomy.
“Couples are not talking; each person expects the other to telepathically understand the pressure they are under, after all ‘we all know the situation of the country.”
Considering the dynamics of the Nigerian economy, what advice would you give couples to build financial resilience and withstand economic uncertainties?
Building financial resilience in the context of the Nigerian economy is crucial for couples, especially with the volatile economic uncertainties inherent in the Nigerian environment. In my financial harmony course for couples, I typically share some strategies that can be personalised to help the family build resilience: creating a detailed income and expense budget – a simple task like this can be a game changer for a couple willing to do the work of communicating and aligning their goals with the current economic realities; increase sources of income – this is certainly not the time for partners to demand excessive attention. In fact, attention without commensurate tangible demonstration of affection, ie gifts, can become a burden.
So, the couple must be willing and mutually encouraged to explore additional sources that will provide income without jeopardising the peace of the home. Also, affluent families should certainly engage financial advisors and experts to help create personalised strategies to right-size their expenditure.
What key financial discussions do you recommend for partners before marriage?
Quite a number of intending couples now go for marriage counselling, which is now available virtually. One part that I find many counsellors shy away from discussing extensively is finance. You know, we live in an interesting society where we prefer to see money being spent but are unwilling to discuss how money is being made. To lay a strong foundation for a marriage partnership, couples must clarify each partner’s role and responsibility in relation to expenditure.
This is not the place to leave it to their discretion or assume that your union will follow cultural precepts on the roles of a man and a woman. Discuss it, and let each party be aware of their responsibilities. Then of course, there must be mutual disclosure of earnings and other business incomes, as well as individual financial goals. Don’t have an undisclosed personal goal of attending Harvard when the loftiest educational dream of your spouse is to attend the LBS – the financial commitment to attain both goals differ, and so there must be full disclosure so that each person is aware of what they are committing to.
Could you provide practical tips for initiating productive conversations about money between partners, especially when there might be differing financial values or goals?
Like I mentioned, discussions about how money is made is usually a difficult one in our environment. But like in all things, the path to progress usually lies in having those difficult conversations. Choose the right and place, and certainly avoid judgmental statements. Be empathetic while discussing even as you actively listen to understand what your partner is expressing.
You can set the tone for such conversations by jointly listening to messages or courses on financial discipline, or even my upcoming course on financial harmony for couples. Such courses and messages create the perfect conversation starters to discuss what the facilitator has said during the session, or something you don’t even agree with.
Can you share a success story that illustrates how a couple successfully implemented your advice on managing family finances, leading to improved harmony in their relationship?
My e-book, the Amaka Series, tells a great story about Amaka who was the sole breadwinner for a long period of bliss in her marriage. This was before her husband got a good paying job and problems started in the relationship. Even though her husband became the ‘significant earner’ in the union, she still maintained her breadwinner status while her husband focused on himself and his own pleasures. This had disastrous consequences on their marriage, the children and her mental health. I recommended some strategies that helped Amaka’s marriage and share some here:
Open communication: Amaka initiated a calm and non-confrontational conversation about their financial goals, concerns, and values with her husband. He expressed his worries and desire for a financially secure future for both of them. His major concern was that he had financial ‘needs’ that Amaka did not appreciate and never supported. He was also aware that Amaka had secret financial obligations to her family that she hid from him. When they changed their communication styles, practised active listening, became more empathetic and open, their marital bond improved.
Shared financial goals: They discussed their shared goals, such as investing in their first home, jointly supporting their extended families and setting money aside for annual family vacations. Finding common aspirations helped them establish a shared vision.
And ultimately, they worked with a coach – me!
What are some common financial pitfalls that couples should be aware of and actively avoid in order to maintain a healthy financial relationship?
The pitfalls are many but here are some: keeping financial secrets and financial infidelity; failing to communicate openly and honestly about financial matters; and not planning for major expenses, such as parties, home purchase, or vacation; neglecting to set and work toward financial goals; and expecting your partner to fulfill all your financial needs and desires. It is important for each person within the marital union to contribute to some extent to the financial wellbeing of the home.
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What are some collaborative strategies that couples can employ to balance financial responsibilities?
Joint budgeting, equitable, not necessarily equal, contribution towards shared expenses, more affordable alternatives to previous expense items are a few strategies to deploy.
In the context of your upcoming virtual seminar, ‘MASTERING FINANCIAL Harmony in Marriage,’ how do you suggest couples address the potential burden on the main breadwinner in terms of managing finances and maintaining harmony in the relationship?
The webinar is coming up later today (Sunday, October 15, 2023), and I will be sharing extensively on how couples can address this issue that is breaking homes apart. Breadwinners have become resentful of the endless toiling, especially as income is not increasing at the rate of consumption within the home; the other partner in the relationship is upset at the increase in the amount of time now spent at work, limited family time and insufficient funds provided for managing the home.
Couples are not talking; each person expects the other to telepathically understand the pressure they are under, after all “we all know the situation of the country.” This is the time to communicate with one another more than ever before. I will be sharing more strategies during the webinar, so join us!