Monday, 9 June 2008

Sam: Dirty Sexy Money part 2

Since money is more difficult to talk about than sex for most English people it is one of the topics that proves very sticky with my clients.

I remember when I was working on ‘How to Have Sex After Marriage’ one of the couples had a complete breakdown of trust over money – he had racked up huge credit card bills and almost gone bankrupt. She only found out when the bailiffs started knocking on the door.

To me this was shocking – how could you be so closed about such an important issue in the relationship? This simple truth was that they never talked about it – that when he lost his high powered job, and then kept spending like he was still in his high powered job it never came up until it was almost too late.

Money is a dirty topic in this country – I even notice it with my clients when they come to speak to me. They hate talking about money – again I took Kate Fox’s advice and only discuss money by email and in writing, which seems to be the most comfortable way forward.

But what about when you are in a relationship? It is really right that you send emails to each other when you want to talk about money? I’ve encountered the most enormous resistance from clients when trying to get them talking about money in their relationship. It is an explosive issue.

The best approach I have found so far is the keep it private but share approach. Each person keeps their own personal account and then each month pay an agreed amount into a joint account to cover joint costs like mortage, rent, bills etc etc. Each person can do what ever they want with their personal account, but the joint account should like Fort Knox – off limits to every one!

The joint account shouldn’t have a card attached to it, or if it does it should be kept safe – this approach ran into trouble with some of my clients when one of them started using the joint account as a personal credit card, leading to all sorts of trouble and arguments.

Money is like a big time bomb waiting to go off in most relationships – if you don’t sort it out early and deactivate the bastard, it’s probably going to go off and do a lot of damage.

What have been your experiences with dirty money in a relationship, and have you got any approaches that work or have ended in disaster?


Paul said...

Talk about it. Thats important. Also the joint account idea is great. We both have personal finance pogram and keep track of what everyone bought in joint expenses. Every month or so we reconcile the accounts. It works very good. Weell except the bill is say 3, to divide that evenly ;-)

Katie said...

One of the main reasons for my divorce (falling out of love and respect for my husband) was over money.

We used to put same amount into a joint account, even though he earned more than me. When I stopped work to have children, the same amount was then paid in by him, no more to support new expenses for the kids etc.

Over the years I had to take out credit, some paid back some not just to get by. All the while he sat with thousands in his personal bank account.

Lesson learnt, now me and my bloke are totally upfront and vocal about finances. You are right it is always a timebomb of an issue and has to be sorted and at least discussed a few times a year.

thene said...

My partner and I have never been totally closed about it. We let ourselves have nasty arguments about it instead; I'm not sure if that's the best approach, but it's the one we've got. In the time we've lived together, we've each had a phase of being unemployed for a few months and having to let the other one take care of stuff; when I was the only employed one, I was literally crying in the night about it because I hadn't wanted to have a poor autumn when I got back to university.

Why did I feel such resentment about that situation? He didn't seem to, when it was my turn to be unemployed. Internalised sexism, or just that I have way more issues over money in general, while he doesn't seem to worry about it too much at all.

Mia said...

In my previous long term relationship money was never a problem. We discussed it quite openly. Maybe that's a cultural thing, Aussies. We split everything in half. But we did it by keeping the spending equal. But we didn't split things in half instead we kept a list of what we had spent. So I might buy dinner that cost £30 and then he would buy the groceries that cost £40, then I'd be the next person to buy things and so on. For the rent we split it in half. If we wanted to treat one another we would just say and it wouldn't get added to to the list. Worked for 5 years or more.

not ben said...

We ran a slush fund for household stuff and treats.We'd both put money in regularly and take it out as needed.It was all logged in a book.
One day I opened the book to write a bill up.It was her diary.Similar black and red A4 as the ledger.She often wrote in her diary if she travelled by train.I resisted the temptation to read her very private and personal property for about half an hour,but I'd glimpsed a mans name I hadn't recognised,and it was eating away at me.The last entry told me all I didn't want to know about another man.
We were supposed to be starting a family.She was supposed to be off the pill.I'm shooting for a boy, and shes doing the whole kneehugging hold the spunk in routine,lots of monica & chandler ovulating quips,but she's really on the pill and shagging a neighbours mate when I'm not around.
I wrote in the diary-
"Aids test.-£20 for travel expenses."
Given that it was her house,it was probably not the smartest thing to write.She wanted me out sharpish.Its an expensive hassle moving house.
Settling down is all very nice.I really hope it works for you.It probably will,but if it doesn't,it can really fuck you up.I slept on mates sofas,strained friendships, lost my job and had to move away from London.
Save up a lump of cash just in case it all goes wrong.Let it earn some interest,and when you are certain you haven't shacked up with my ex,crack it out and splash it on a family holiday.