Money troubles are the leading cause of marital problems in South Africa. This is not new to us; we have all heard the statistics before.
But in my more than ten years of interviewing clients in Life Planning meetings, I have come to realise that couples don’t actually argue about the amount or lack of money they have. It is not the money they are fighting about. It is the power that goes with it.
Money and happiness
As I reflected on a recent Life Planning meeting with a married couple, I realised that there is much to learn about the role of money in relationships. And, that you are never too young, or too old to learn how your relationship with money can impact on your relationship with a loved one.
Just for fun, I decided to research the happiness factor of lottery winners, and visited the Ranker web-site, a digital media company in Los Angeles that holds one of the largest databases of opinion polls in the world. According to the Ranker opinion poll, 43% of people who win the lottery say the money has not improved their state of happiness in any way. At least 90% of lottery winners lose friends due to jealousy and resentment.
So yes, money certainly does not buy happiness, but how can we manage money in our relationships to ensure that it does not lead to a breakdown of our happiness?
The Call to be Courageous
Back to the Life Planning meeting with the married couple. This couple has been married for over 40 years, and for the first time in her life, the wife admitted that she has never been included in their financial planning process as a couple. She felt that she had no value to add, and had handed over the responsibility of their financial affairs to “others”. I am always surprised in client meetings how valuable it is to put courageous money conversations on the table. Sometimes I feel that clients are more at ease having these conversations with a Retiremeant™ Specialist present, as a mediator and safe-keeper of emotions.
This one meeting had such a profound impact on my day, and reminded me once again why we do what we do at Chartered. A marriage cannot be built on money, but as surely as it cannot buy happiness, it can so easily destroy a relationship. And it’s not the money that destroys the marriage. It’s the meaning we give to money, the emotions that come with money, the beliefs we have around money, and the expectations about money.
And so, with SA marriage week coming up from 1-7 September, maybe it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with ourselves and our partners about the role of money in our relationships. As the saying goes: You live and you learn – and luckily for us, we are never too old to learn.