43 – How to Obtain Monetary Alignment in Your Marriage

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Episode Overview:

Continuing the Marriage Series, Ken begins delving into alignment. Ken lays out 2 considerations when seeking alignment: take ownership as individuals and then align together. Ken explains how you can be your best self in service to your better half, and how together you can achieve your goals. Like tires on a car, you need to be of good quality individual tire and then align with your other half. Ken outlines how to improve alignment and what pitfalls you need to avoid. Last episode focused on literacy, this episode focuses on working in conjunction with your better half.

Transcriptions are auto-generated, please excuse grammar/spelling!

Happy day to you. This is Ken Kaufman. And I am thrilled you’re here for episode number 43, “How to Obtain Alignment in Your Marriage with Money.” To set the stage, we’re in the middle of basically a four-part series about how to succeed with money and marriage. Alignment is one of the four key pillars, if you will, of creating success in marriage with money. Now, these four pillars are really, I’m going to say, they’re the four-part elements of building a house, to use that analogy. And to reset where we’re at in that, the first thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to have a foundation for your house, and that is alignment between spouses, and that’s what we’re talking about today. You also need a blueprint, or the overall financial plan that points you the direction of how you’re going to build this house, what it’s going to look like, and what all it’s going to take and entail. And it really is the vision for where you’re going.

The third component is the actual building materials, which is financial literacy, and the key financial principles of success that need to be implemented in order to succeed just with money in general, and then certainly with money in marriage. And then, the fourth element is the labor. It’s that hard work, the grit to put it all together, and to push through, and execute on your plan, and then iterate the plan when needed just because life happens, and things change, and sometimes priorities change and visions, and the big whys can sometimes even change. So, in taking…or I should say, starting off this episode, I really want you to think about this in two pieces. Number one is you need to be the spouse that is going to be the type of person that can be aligned with and that can succeed with your co-spouse in the marriage. The second one is you then need to work on as a couple becoming aligned together. And the great analogy here, it’s a very natural one, is the concept of a car. Think about the two front wheels on your car. And if you’re driving along and one wheel is trying to pull off to the right and the other is trying to pull off to the left, it causes a ton of strain on the engine, it causes the tires to wear, it causes the rest of the car to wear, and it reduces the longevity of everything in the system, as well as cost you a lot more money and maintenance, fuel, and a lot of pain and grief in the process.

So the concept of alignment is really broken down in two pieces. The first thing is you’ve got to be a good tire. You need two good tires, and each need to be good on their own, meaning you’ve got to get your stuff together and your spouse has to get their stuff together, and then once you’ve got it together, then if you can align the direction that you’re both pointing, then that’s like liquid gold in terms of how to succeed in marriage with money and driving for that alignment. But the first thing that you’ve got to do individually is you’ve got to make sure that you’re a good healthy tire, good tread, everything’s ready to rock and roll when we start up that car and we start rolling down the road. And in saying that, I think this is maybe the way…this is the best quote we found on this from Stefan James, who’s part of the Project Life Mastery. He said this, “The first principle to achieve alignment is acting in a way that shows you understand and believe that you are responsible for your own actions.” This is so critical. Blaming, not taking ownership, hiding, all those things are big, big problems. You’ve got to pull your weight and be in good shape and be a good partner.

Now, there are three common ways in the research that my son, Daniel, did that cause lack of alignment. The first one is the concept of financial infidelity. That’s line hoarding, hiding, really, it’s just not doing your part and being very secretive about it and not sharing and being open about it. The second one is a lack of patience with empathy toward and a willingness to help your spouse. Now, this is good life material as well to think about, but it especially impacts spouses that are trying to get aligned around financial matters. You need to give them lots of room and be empathetic toward them and patient, as well as be willing to help them. And then, the third one that we came up in quite a bit of the research that my son, Daniel, did is sometimes there’s just a lack of commitment to resolve conflict, meaning we can be tempted to bury our head in the sand and just try to avoid the situation altogether and hope it’ll go away. Well, we all know when it comes to money, that does not happen and that does not work.

Another key component of being the type of tire that is good, and healthy, and strong, and will be a good companion to the other tire on the front of this vehicle that I was having the picture there a minute earlier, is to be trustworthy and to be trusting, meaning you need to be trustworthy and you need to be willing to trust your spouse or be trusting toward them. It means you do what you say you’re going to do. It means you act how you say you’re going to act. It means that you’re honest, you’re open and transparent. You even look for ways to serve your spouse. You are quick to forgive rather than hold grudges or cast judgment, especially final judgment on them and where they’re at if they’re working on things. Also, you need to be humble.

There’s a better than 50% chance that you’re the weakest link in your marriage. Think about that. There’s a 50% chance that you are the weakest link. You need to be humble and you need to give lots of room for your spouse and their challenges or the things that they’re working on and trying to improve with. You also need to be willing to confront your spouse and bring up concerns when you have them. So being humble, and forgiving, and all these things, it is not a position of being servile or weak. And I’m not saying that you should ever put yourself in a position to be taken advantage of. You need to be able to confront your spouse and bring up your concerns. And being trustworthy and trusting, that’s a requirement. If you’re holding those things back, think about the damage that you’re doing in your marriage relationship.

And then the last one is, I am not giving any permission to anyone to be a doormat in their relationship around money or any other part of a marriage. Healthy boundaries are always required to make things work and to be in alignment. You’re out of alignment if one spouse is domineering or in any way taking advantage of the other spouse. So I’m not giving anybody permission to be a doormat. You’ve got to stand up for yourself and build a good, healthy communication and respect back and forth.

Being a good tire is all of these things. Now, then, with this other tire that you’ve married, how do you get yourself aligned so you’re just pointing down the road and exactly the same direction, and things are going to be smooth and moving efficient and be super successful as you move forward? There’s really about five buckets of things that you should be thinking about here to drive alignment. The first one is communication. So, obviously, poor or no communication regarding finances, not having any money talks whatsoever between each other, if you’re not willing to discuss key decisions or you’re not willing to do a maintenance plan to make sure that you stay aligned on priorities and the direction that you’re trying to go, super problematic. Elle Martinez, she wrote a book called “Jumpstart Your Marriage & Your Money.” She said this, “Time and time again, I have found that marriages are nearly destroyed by not talking about money because spouses want to avoid a fight.”

This is an interesting concept, not willing to bring things up to avoid a fight. So there’s clearly some underlying, you know, potential issues here that she’s talking about between couples. But not talking and being fearful of one another and trying to avoid having a good, healthy conversation is going to be a challenge. And so, some of the ways to try to foster that good healthy communication…because I realize this can be hard, and in marriage, there’s a lot of other things at play besides money. I think money ends up touching and kind of being a part of all of it, and it’s intertwined through marriage relationship and through the activities of the day, and week, and month, and year, and all of those things.

But the key thing here is that there are some attitudes and perspectives that can help in your marriage to foster communication. The first one is just to focus on being a team. So you’re there to help each other, support each other, and ultimately, if one wins, then the other wins. So we’ve got to get everybody across that finish line to win and win together. The second one is to be kind in your judgments towards your spouse and to try to avoid any finality toward them. Another one is to constantly show them that you value them as a partner, showing gratitude. Also, remembering again that there’s a 50% chance that you’re the weakest link here in this marriage, and they’ve got to put up with you, all your shenanigans. At a minimum, they deserve the benefit of the doubt and tons of room for mistakes from you because you’re going to make your own mistakes and you got your own things that you’re working on and trying to improve. So, in order for both of you to move forward, you’ve got to give each other room and be, you know, to some degree, forgiving toward each other. This will help drive good communication.

The next one is actually scheduling when you’re going to sit down and talk about money and scheduling this regularly. Some people might do it weekly, or monthly, or quarterly. I think doing it less frequently than quarterly can be problematic just because life changes and you need to maintain alignment. Here’s an interesting thing. My son, in doing a lot of the research, that has prepared a lot of the material for this, he actually did a lot of interviews of people who’ve been married for anywhere from just barely married to married for over 40 years, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even into their 60s. And in these conversations, he said the one thing that stood out most and that all of the data that he gathered up in these qualitative interviews, it all pointed to the irreplaceable nature of having scheduled money talks. He saw consistently couples who said, “Hey, one of the things we did is we set up a regular time to meet and talk about finances, and talk about money, and talk about our goals and dreams and where we’re headed.” He said, “Without fail, those couples were succeeding with money. The ones who were struggling with money generally didn’t mention anything about scheduled money talks.” And he would even sometimes insert the question and say, “Have you ever tried doing scheduled money talks?” And in each instance, where there was a couple who’s struggled a great deal with finances, without fail, they said, “We didn’t do that, but well, that sure would have helped.”

So, this first point of communication in the marriage and around money, there’s some good steps to take in terms of, you know, have some information when you do your money talks so that you can say, “You know, here’s where we’re at, here’s where we’re going with my wife and I. I am in charge each month of bringing the information of our progress and how we’re going on our plan and then we have the conversation about it. And in terms of venue, sometimes it’s our bedroom, after we finally gotten all the kids to bed. Sometimes it’s going out to dinner. And it has even occurred via phone when we’re in different places.” Being committed to that and making that happen is a critical component and will help grease the skids of all the rest of the elements of communicating successfully around money.

Now, the second item here about getting alignment once, you know, you’ve got the two good tires and now it’s just about getting them headed down, pointed at the right direction and going in the exact same direction as each other is defining what financial success together actually looks like. This can be hard, but this is about, you know, marrying two different people together, and their ideas, and values, and trying to decide what is our why. Now, from an article that Minda Zetlin wrote at inc.com, she said this, “Couples struggle to be committed to their financial plan… Couples that struggle, I’m sorry, to be committed to their financial plan or budget, it’s usually because they have no why. But when they choose what they want their future together to look like, that becomes their why and gives them the motivation they need to delay instant gratification for their longer term plans, for their highest priorities, for the things that are the most important to them to accomplish together, as well as leaving room for each spouse. If one spouse likes video games and they want to spend some money on that but the other spouse hates video games or doesn’t like them, they give them room to do video games. And if the other spouse really likes yoga, then giving them room to go and do that and making sure that’s accounted for financially from a priority perspective in the financial plan.”

Now, from the dictionary, it says alignment is a state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups, nations, etc., with a common cause or viewpoint. Getting to your common cause and viewpoint, your why, will create so much momentum. And then to quote from the calibri360.com website, it talks about how being aligned means that you’re tracking together, you’re in lockstep moving forward, and the choices that spouses are making each day, understanding that they are going to drive the ultimate destiny of where you’re going and how successful you’re going to be. They choose now, the spouses, where they want to end up so that if the two spouses’ ideas for where they will end up are different, then they’re just going to be off track. They’re not going to be going the same way. They’re going to veer away from each other. So getting that why, getting that common vision and goal and getting aligned around it gets everybody pointed in the momentum going in exactly the right direction, efficient and effective.

Now, the third point I want to bring up is always remember that you are a team. One plus one should equal three. You have strengths and weaknesses. Your spouse has strengths and weaknesses. You guys came hard-wired with some of that. Some of it’s been because of the way you were raised. I guess what I’m saying is there’s the nature element and the nurture element of it. And if the law of opposites being attracted to each other is at all true, your spouse is different than you. And sometimes they’re wildly different than you, and understanding that those differences, the strengths and weaknesses, can actually support and help each other. I can give you a flavor of how this works in my own marriage.

My wife loves to be a quick start and have ideas and then brainstorm around those ideas and has lots of energy for that. I get worn out quickly in the brainstorming session because I quickly want to go start to try to solve so I start doing research. In fact, we’re looking at needing to replace a vehicle here soon, and she’s wanting to brainstorm and all these ideas, and I’m wanting to go online and start looking things up, and researching, and figuring out what brands, and how many miles, and what year should we look at, and should we buy dealer, should we try to buy from private party. And what’s interesting is that neither one of us is wrong, we’re just bringing different perspectives to the table. And ultimately, my wife realizes, “Hey, wow. He can actually help me find the right thing and so I can slow down a little bit for him.” And I can sometimes say, “Okay, I can slow down my research and help you brainstorm and get to where you’re comfortable, but then I’ve got to be able to go over here and do the research,” and then we married these things together. And it brings a great strength, one plus one is three. So understanding your spouse, and understanding what they bring to the table, and then valuing it. Be grateful for them and express that regularly, that they’re different than you, and that they’re bringing something to the table that you wouldn’t have thought of before and, would have left alone, you would not be where you’re at without their influence and without their help.

Now, the fourth item here to talk about to create alignment in marriage is to think about that road that you drive down. This is from the book “Your Money and Your Marriage.” If you’re driving down the road with your tires and you’re in perfect alignment, usually on a highway, there’s rumble strips on the right and on the left. And the rumble strips are those dents in the highway that if you veer too far right or too far left, your tire hits them and it starts to bounce up and down and it causes your car to shake and vibrate, and it makes a really loud noise. So it can wake up a driver that’s veering off or just get you away from being distracted so you can be on the road where you’re supposed to be. The rumble strips in your marriage are critical in terms of you need to know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed and you and your spouse sitting down and figuring out what that means for you.

Here’s a good example in terms of implementing these rumble strips to help drive alignment. In a company, usually different peoples have different seniority and rank in the company. They have spending level authorities or approvals that they can do without getting anybody else’s approval. You know, this manager can spend $250 to solve a customer problem. They don’t have to ask anybody, tell anybody about it. It’s just all part of their budget and what they’re authorized to do. But if they want to spend $5,000 on something, they need to get their boss’s approval. And if they want spend $10,000, they’ve got to get their boss’s boss’s approval before they can do it. Think of it that way. In your marriage, what is the dollar amount that if you’re going to spend more than that amount, you and your spouse need to have a conversation and get aligned on it before that purchase is made? Whatever that dollar amount is, figure that out and it’ll keep you inside those rumble strips where, if you go outside, that causes just, you know, misalignment and all kinds of challenges and problems.

Another good thing to think about in terms of rumble strips is doing what you say you’re going to do, not lying. Like, it’s basically rules or code of conduct, like, what I talked about before about being a good tire and staying within those rumble strips and knowing that if you go outside of, you’ve got to own up to that, and get yourself back inside the rumble strips, and do your best to make it right, and to square it up at the end of the day. So that’s four items. A fifth one that I want to mention, for those that are God-fearing and recognize that they want a higher power to be a part of their finances. Also, alignment in marriage needs to acknowledge that higher power, if you believe in one. And if you do…if you don’t, that’s fine, then you get aligned with your spouse. But if you do believe in a higher power, then it’s figuring out how to align with who that higher power is to you and how that helps influence the prioritization of your goals and your dreams and what you’re going to put together.

So there it is, the steps, the key principles and elements of driving toward alignment in marriage. Now, the next thing that’s going to actually help you be aligned in your marriage as well as fulfill the next part of constructing this overall success in marriage and money is creating the blueprint, which is the comprehensive financial plan, where you’re putting your goals and dreams down on paper and you’re looking at life, looking at income and outflows and figuring out, okay, how do we make the most of what we’ve got and how do we get money allocated towards the right priorities?

So in the next episode, I’m going to get into this blueprint concept of if you’re building a home or, in this case, when you’re trying to work toward financial success. It is a comprehensive financial plan that takes into account the things that are most important to you. And getting alignment around that financial plan is so critical, but why is important in getting alignment around this financial plan. That really is the next thing that’s got to happen. So I encourage you to subscribe to the podcast, you can listen to that episode, and then the one following that will be the last one in this series of how to succeed in marriage with money, and that is in this building of the house concept. It’s the labor, it’s the commitment, the emotional fortitude, the grit to get in there and execute and get the work done in your financial plan to be successful, to get those scheduled money meetings happening, to be willing to step up and confront in a loving, kind way your spouse when there’s a concern you have, or when you want to address something, and for them to be willing to do the same to you by being humble, and grateful, and showing a high degree of individual compassion toward each other, so critical to drive toward this alignment in marriage. Many, many thanks to you for joining today. This is a wrap for episode 43. Happy day.

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Join Chief Financial Officer Ken Kaufman as he helps you track and hack your net worth. For those seeking financial independence, your net worth is one of the most significant measurements of success. Using his two decades of financial experience, Ken Kaufman helps you overcome your financial obstacles and look onward towards a better, brighter financial future.

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